East Devon to take 25 refugee families?

Migrants and refugees wait to board a train heading towards Serbia at the transit center for refugee

Migrants and refugees wait to board a train heading towards Serbia at the transit center for refugees near the southern Macedonian town of Gevgelija, after crossing the border from Greece, on Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015. Thousands of refugees and migrants are heading to Macedonia from Greece on their way to more prosperous European Union countries, after the Greek seamen's union called off rolling 48-hour ferry strikes that had stranded an estimated 25,000 people on the eastern Aegean islands. (AP Photo/Boris Grdanoski) - Credit: AP

Up to 25 Syrian families could be settled in East Devon in the next five years as part of a government scheme to help people fleeing the war-torn country.

The Prime Minister has committed to resettling 20,000 people from refugee camps by 2020 through the Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme.

And of this total, ‘four or five families’ per year are expected to make East Devon their new home.

At an East Devon District Council (EDDC) meeting last month, Ottery St Mary resident Anna Roderick asked chief executive Mark Williams what steps the authority had taken.

He said: “We have indicated a willingness to consider any numbers that are allocated to Devon to be fairly apportioned across Devon.

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“We are working primarily through Devon County Council (DCC) as the lead social services authority.

“It does look like in the main, [refugee families] will be initially allocated primarily to Plymouth and Exeter.

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“In terms of numbers that may fall outside of that, we are looking at four or five families per year over the five year period, so up to 20-25, for East Devon as a whole.”

He said EDDC and DCC were working on a co-ordinated approach to ensure things such as housing, medical care, education and benefits were all in place before families started arriving.

Asked what members of the public could do to assist the council, Mr Williams said people could contact the authority with their details, adding: “We feed that in to the county council and they will take it on in the future.”

Speaking to the Herald last week, Anna said work was already being done in Ottery to co-ordinate the efforts of residents. She said: “It is very early days, but at the moment we are looking to put together a more formal group to cover Ottery, but we would welcome people from across East Devon.

“Because of the way the Government is approaching it, at the moment they haven’t really set the number very high - [25] is probably in line with the current scheme.

“In some ways I was surprised it was that many for East Devon at all, but I think we could take far more. But I think the local authorities are playing a really useful role in supporting it.”

Anyone who would like to get involved with the Ottery group can contact Anna on anna.roderick.ottery@talktalk.net

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