Tuesday November 3rd 2015
At a full council meeting on Tuesday, councillors heard about progress made after officers were asked to investigate accommodating refugees locally and what other means of support could be extended to them during this humanitarian crisis.
All local authorities in Scotland, including Midlothian, have already agreed to work with the Scottish government and the Home Office to support an expansion of the Syrian Vulnerable Person Scheme. The move will see a further 20,000 refugees resettled in the UK from camps on the borders of Syria.
It is estimated around 2,000 refugees will come to Scotland with Midlothian accepting around 40 people over five years.
The first refugees could arrive in Midlothian the New Year.
Council Leader, Councillor Catherine Johnstone, said: “We’ve all seen the harrowing images of the conflict in Syria on television and social media. I’m sure everyone in Midlothian, therefore, shares our grave concerns about the plight of refugees trying to escape this horrendous war and persecution.
“We have a moral duty to help those in need who have lost their homes, their livelihoods, their communities and often their loved ones too.”
The focus will be on bringing people to safety. No decisions have been made on specific areas in which to house the arrivals, however, the council may consider using properties owned by the council of a reasonable standard but which are no longer used.
Whatever decisions are made, the council is confident it can offer housing to the refugees without impacting on council housing allocations.
Negotiations are continuing with central government on funding for the scheme.
Cllr Johnstone said: “The figure of approximately 40 based on what we should be expected to accept of the nationally agreed total figure. Over a five year period, this really is not a large amount of people at all.
“However, while the number may be relatively small, we want to make sure these new arrivals, whenever they come in the next five years, are welcomed and feel part of the community.
“As a council, we are working with partner agencies to make sure this is the case. We’re relying on local people too to do their bit. Indeed in the coming weeks there may be volunteering opportunities or ways people can donate goods or other services to help refuges settle in locally. We will be sharing that information when we have it.”Tweet Share on Facebook