Syrian resettlement scheme support encouraged by minister

16 February 2016
Local authorities have been praised for their support of government plans to resettle Syrian refugees, and more encouraged to come forward and get involved by the Minister for Syrian Refugees.

In a speech at a conference in bioscience incubation centre Bio City in Nottingham last week, Richard Harrington thanked local authorities in the East Midlands and their partners for their participation in the government’s vulnerable persons’ resettlement scheme (VPRS).

“I am proud to lead our nation’s resettlement programme and thrilled that we have already begun to deliver on our promise - with over 1,000 Syrian refugees resettled by the end of 2015,” said Harrington.

“This has been made possible by an incredible amount of effort and support from local authorities from the East Midlands and across the UK.”

The conference, part of a series taking place around the country in 2016, was in support of the government’s pledge to resettle up to 20,000 Syrians who need protection during this parliament. It was an opportunity to share best practice on helping refugees resettle, give an update on the progress of VPRS and encourage support from local authorities not yet involved.

“There is still a great deal of work to do as we offer protection and a new start to a total of 20,000 vulnerable Syrians over the course of this parliament,” added Harrington.

“The ongoing support and co-operation of local authorities, NGOs [non-governmental organisations] and others will be essential as we expand the resettlement scheme further in the coming months.”

The conference was chaired by East Midlands Councils Executive Director Dr Stuart Young and attended by about 100 people, including ten local authority leaders and cabinet members, and local government officers from local authorities around the East Midlands.

Representatives from partner organisations such as clinical commission groups - which organise the delivery of NHS services in England - local and national voluntary organisations, community and non-governmental organisations also attended.

They heard from Gedling Borough Council Chief Executive John Robinson, who talked about the council’s experience of helping Syrian refugees settle before Christmas, and Syrian Charities and Networks UK Refugee Support Coordinator Amaf Yousef, who told attendees how VPRS works from the perspective of Syrian refugees.

Despite a “cessation of hostilities” deal agreed by major powers in Munich last week the five-year civil war in Syria continues, with an airstrike hitting hospitals in two locations in northern Syria earlier today.

Humanitarian organisation Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has said eight members of staff are missing after a hospital it supports in Maaret al-Numan, Idlib province, was hit four times in two different raids.

While MSF did not blame any side for the bombing, Head of Mission in Syria Massimiliano Rebaudengo said: “This appears to be a deliberate attack on a health structure, and we condemn this attack in the strongest possible terms.”

According to Syrian opposition activists, a missile hit a children’s hospital in Azaz, a rebel-held town near the border with Turkey, killing ten and wounding more than 30. Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoðlu claims the town was hit by a Russian ballistic missile.


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