Over 300 Syrian refugees resettled in Gloucestershire
By the end of the year, Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue Service will have resettled over 300 Syrian refugees across the county over the last three years.
The Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme is funded by the Home Office and is voluntary for councils to take part in. The scheme aims to provide sanctuary to 20,000 refugees across the UK by May 2020.
In Gloucestershire, the scheme is managed by the Fire and Rescue Service, which is part of Gloucestershire County Council. Since December 2015, 77 families have been resettled by the Fire and Rescue Service, with five more due to arrive by the end of the year. This includes 32 families settled in Cheltenham, 25 families in Gloucester, nine in Stroud, six in the Forest of Dean, three in the Cotswolds, and two families in Tewkesbury.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees identifies the most vulnerable people in need from Syria for the scheme. It prioritises people who cannot be supported where they are: women and children at risk, people in severe need of medical care, and survivors of torture and violence, amongst others.
Once the vulnerable people have been identified, Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue Service work closely with health, education and social care teams to make sure their needs can be fully met in the county.
Gloucestershire County Councillor Dave Norman, cabinet member responsible for the Fire and Rescue Service, said: “These people are in desperate need of assistance and councils can play a vital role in giving them a new start. In Gloucestershire, we have a fantastic network of partners that make sure they get the right care and support.”
Cllr Kathy Williams, cabinet member for adult social care, added: “Councils and partner organisations have been united in their response to help these vulnerable people and give them the support they need to rebuild their lives. The scheme’s success is also down to the public’s support in welcoming the refugees and helping them to integrate into the community.”
Gloucestershire Action for Refugees and Asylum Seekers (GARAS) receives funding from the Fire and Rescue Service to support the refugees and are heavily involved in helping them to build a new life in Gloucestershire. They support them to integrate into our society, for example assisting with medical needs, arranging English lessons and getting children into education, helping them find jobs, and setting up their new home.
Adele Owen from GARAS said: “We have been delighted to be part of this project and share many of the ups and downs of life as people settle into their new homes. It has been a privilege for staff to be there at births and to celebrate other joys. Some of the refugees have found very varied jobs, such as tailoring, catering, decorating, and care work. We’re really pleased that Gloucestershire is at the forefront of this important work.”
All of the district councils committed to take part in this project and the properties are either council or housing association owned homes or have been provided by private landlords.