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Highland Syrian refugee resettlement a success

By Tom Ramage

Members today (February 12) welcomed 'significant' efforts by communities and partners in delivering a successful Refugee Resettlement programme in Highland.

The Highland Council is reported to be delighted how well Highland communities have welcomed families who have endured the most horrific circumstances and ensured they are settled, safe, well and wanted in their new surroundings.

A report to the Health, Social Care and Wellbeing Committee today also acknowledged the unreserved support from all Highland Council services and partners to continue to be involved in future phases.

In total 23 families have so far been resettled in Highland, as part of the council’s commitment to accept 25-30 families in the 2015–2020 period.

Members agreed to welcome around 25 further refugees in 2020/21 under the new Global Refugee Resettlement Programme, with a further recommendation to come forward when more information is known about the future programme.

The report summarises the Highland’s response to the Syrian Refugee crisis since 2015, setting out the challenges and successes in resettling Syrian families.

The programme has been funded by the UK Government and, a council spokesperson said, "with careful management this has proven to be adequate. With the same funding anticipated for the first year of the 2020-25 programme it is not anticipated that there will be any financial pressures arising from it in year one."

Chair of the Health, Social Care and Wellbeing Committee, Linda Munro said: “There are only positive implications from this scheme, with particularly vulnerable families being able to settle in Highland. There are further positive impacts from new residents and cultures within a community.”

Highland Council has been working with partners since 2015 in preparation for Syrian families coming to Highland. A Refugee Resettlement Strategic Group was established in 2015 and includes officers from the Highland Council, NHS Highland, Police Scotland, DWP, Highlife Highland and the Highland Third Sector Interface, ensuring excellent cross-sectoral working across the Highland public and third sectors.

In order to ensure the best outcome for Syrian families, area specific delivery groups were established for each phase to ensure all arrangements were put in place prior to arrival.

The scheme has helped 23 families settle in Inverness, Dingwall, Kinlochleven and Alness.

Ms Munro added: “Third sector organisations, with support from many individuals, have arranged welcome parties, provided the most appropriate clothing and food, helped with transport, social integration and generally been there as huge support.

“Businesses have employed a number of refugees, and some have moved on to further and higher education and all are learning English. Young people in schools have been outstanding ambassadors for the programme, leading the way in welcoming their new friends to their communities and helping them to integrate.”

It should also be acknowledged there have been challenges for Highland Council and its partners during delivery of the scheme, most of which have been caused by rurality and lack of locally based services such as availability of housing stock, housing support, interpretation, education and English for speakers of other languages.

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