Plans underway for arrival of Syrian refugees to MU

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Mid Ulster Council has revealed it is liaising with the Home Office over the potential arrival of Syrian refugee families to Mid Ulster.

At the last meeting of the Mid Ulster Development Committee meeting, the council said it was continuing to work with the UK Government’s Syrian Vulnerable Person Resettlement Programme regarding the proposed plans.

However, they would not be drawn on saying how many would arrive or when.

A spokesperson for the council said that it was ‘committed to offering its practical support to any families coming to Mid Ulster and we are ready to assist as required.’

She added: “The Department for Communities is responsible for the Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme and works with the Housing Executive and a range of other voluntary sector partners to welcome and settle families, as well as to meet their longer-term needs.”

The first Syrian refugee families arrived in Northern Ireland in December 2015, and since then three more groups have come, totalling 221 people.

A further two groups arrived at the end of 2016, bringing the total number to almost 400 people.

Communities Minister Paul Givan said that all of the refugees who had arrived here so far were making “very good progress” in developing their English language skills.

“I can advise that the plans which were put in place by the department to manage the arrival and settlement of the refugees are working very effectively and the quality of the support systems is helping them to integrate into Northern Ireland society.

“An ability to speak and understand English will be crucial to the success of the refugees’ integration, and I am pleased to report that all of the refugees who have arrived so far are accessing English language lessons and are making very good progress in developing their English skills.”

All of the Syrian refugees arriving in Northern Ireland have experienced some degree of trauma and have been living for some time in cramped refugee camps in countries near their homeland.

To qualify for help under the scheme, persons must be either a survivor of torture or violence, or a woman or child at risk or in need of medical care. The Government has committed itself to providing humanitarian protection, which means the people taken in have leave to remain for five years. Afterwards they are free to apply to settle in the country.