Plans to resettle a further 10 Syrian refugee families received unanimous backing from councillors this morning – with praise for support locally for the scheme already.
A report present to members of the Executive Board today outlined the plans to continue the council’s support for the Syrian Refugee Relocation Scheme .
The Home Office funded scheme provides support to local authorities in finding accommodation for refugees fleeing Syria.
In May 2016 members of the Executive Board unanimously gave their support to the scheme, approving plans to house five Syrian refugee families in Wrexham. A second report presented to the board later that year for a further five families, was also backed unanimously by councillors.
So far eight families – totalling 36 people – have relocated to Wrexham so far, with plans to “identify and welcome” a further two families by the end of the financial year. The families allocated to Wrexham so far from two parents with two children to two parents with four children.
Today members of the Executive Board unanimously supported a recommendation to welcome and house another 10 families, in principle, to Wrexham.
Speaking at this morning’s Executive Board, Cllr Hugh Jones, Lead Member for Communities, Partnerships, Public Protection and Community Safety, said he was “grateful to the people of Wrexham for the support given to the scheme to date”.
Cllr Jones continued: “This has been a really good story for people coming from the most desperate condition of war, famine and refugees in Syria.
“It has been a success because all agencies in partnership, health service, local communities and council staff have worked tirelessly to welcome refugees into our communities. All have felt welcome and very grateful for support given.
“Now feel on basis of success achieved to date, it would right to extend scheme for a further five families in 2018/19 and 19/20. 10 families, five in each ensuing two years.
“The scheme fully funding by the Home Office and the work done to date has been welcomed by all concerned. It is subject to have agreement from partners and they are listed, we call on multi-agencies to bring in support to enable the scheme to be a success.”
He added: “It is a small contribution Wrexham is making for 6.5 million displaced refugees, families and young children. I am proud to move the recommendation.”
The report was seconded by Cllr David A Bithell, who noted that Wrexham has an “excellent track record” in supporting refugees.
Questions were asked about how individual councillors can support those who are resettled in their wards, with Cllr Mike Davies drawing upon his own personal experience meeting the families who have been housed across Wrexham.
Cllr Davies said: “We are all aware of what is going on in this particular situation. I’ve been close on a ground level, I’ve met all these families as part of my work, my normal job is in the fire service.
“When families arrive and are given a home, within the first couple of days they have a home visit, we always have a member of the British Red Cross and a translator. Some of the stories you hear are quite tragic.
“There are a couple of things I’d like to suggest. I know all members are aware of where they will be located, they’re not told when. Might be useful on a couple of occasions they are given a date to visit the local councillor, if they wish they might want to come in. I don’t know if you could put something in place so that could be facilitated.”
A similar question was asked by Cllr Tina Mannering, who queried: “I wondered what our responsibilities as local councillors are for refugees would be and how that would fit into the community?”
Cllr Jones: “What we will do is ensure all the refugees who come here have access to their local councillors contact details, it will then to give them an opportunity to contact their local member if they wish and the role of the local member will be explained. I will ensure that is passed on.”
He added: “As local councillors we represent the whole of the community, so if someone comes to live in our community, we are their representative. That’s why I said I will take on board the suggestion that we ensure all refugees have the contact details of their councillor and the role they fulfil, because coming from a different culture, they may have difficulty in understanding what we do.
“Once somebody is living in our ward, we have a duty to represent them and I will make sure those details are made available to them.”
The report received unanimous backing from members of the Executive Board.