'Steep learning curve' as East Devon prepares to welcome refugees

PUBLISHED: 16:22 30 May 2016

Stranded in the northern Greek border station of Idomeni, for 15 days Syrian refugees sit next to a fire as they wait to be allowed to cross to Macedonia on Saturday, March 5, 2016. The regional governor called on the Greek government Saturday to declare a state of emergency for the area surrounding the Idomeni border crossing where thousands of migrants are stranded due to border restrictions along the route toward western Europe. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

Stranded in the northern Greek border station of Idomeni, for 15 days Syrian refugees sit next to a fire as they wait to be allowed to cross to Macedonia on Saturday, March 5, 2016. The regional governor called on the Greek government Saturday to declare a state of emergency for the area surrounding the Idomeni border crossing where thousands of migrants are stranded due to border restrictions along the route toward western Europe. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

Combined efforts underway to help resettle displaced families

Provisions are being put in place to help resettle Syrian refugees in East Devon as the district council admits it faces ‘a steep learning curve’.

The authority confirmed this week it has received five responses from landlords following an appeal to find suitable accommodation for displaced families fleeing the war-torn nation.

After facing criticism for being ‘too slow to act’ to the crisis, East Devon District Council (EDDC) has now pledged to take in five to 10 refugee families under the Government’s Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement scheme.

An EDDC spokesman said: “Once appropriate housing has been identified, we will co-ordinate with Devon County Council (DCC) and health partners to ensure that suitable support, in terms of health, education and welfare, is in place to enable families to be resettled in a sustainable way.

“This is a steep learning curve for East Devon, as we have limited experience of resettling refugees, but we are more than willing to find a way to welcome these people and provide a safe haven.”

The authority has appealed to landlords for private, rented houses. This would ideally be available for the five years refugees are offered humanitarian protection, but shorter-term lets can also be used.

East Devon’s MP Hugo Swire has met grass roots campaigners working to support Syrian refugees and also pledged his support for the resettlement of vulnerable families in his constituency.

He said: “Britain is a moral nation and we continue to fulfil our international duties. This is why we are at the forefront of the international response to the humanitarian crisis in Syria.

“However, financial aid is not enough and it is right that the Government has committed to re-settling up to 20,000 refugees over the next five years and taking in more unaccompanied Syrian refugee children from Europe.

“I have written to the leaders of our local councils to find what their plans are in regards to refugees. I have done this, in part, because it is so vital that the correct provisions are in place, despite the fact that East Devon is due to take in a relatively low number of refugees.”

County councillor Claire Wright confirmed DCC had commitments from local authorities in Devon to resettle more than 30 Syrian families and had developed a network to provide much of the essential support.

She said the critical issue was in finding suitable accommodation – something that was proving difficult - but now that some properties had been identified, the county council was able to make formal offers to the Home Office.

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