December will herald the start of a whole new life for three families who will make East Ayrshire their home after fleeing the conflict in Syria.
The families, who will arrive before Christmas, are refugees whose lives have been devastated by the conflict which has left hundreds of thousands dead and displaced millions more.
Early in the refugee crisis East Ayrshire Council committed to working with the Scottish Government in any way possible to help those refugees in need of urgent assistance and support.
Councillor Douglas Reid, Leader of the Council said: “We are facing a humanitarian crisis on a scale that hasn’t been seen for 70 years and it is continuing to escalate.
“Millions of people have been forced to flee their homes due to violence, torture, rape and oppression. Across the UK, authorities are preparing to welcome refugees, who are being resettled from refugee camps through the United Nations resettlement scheme. The refugees will be given help to start a new life, safe from fear and oppression.
“The Council has been preparing for the arrival of the refugees who have now been assigned to us by the Home Office. Service teams have been creating specific plans to support their arrival and integration across housing, health and social care, education, community support and other services as appropriate.
“We are also working closely with local churches, faith groups and community groups who have already stepped forward offering support.
“Our aim is to help the families integrate fully and peacefully into local life. We do recognise that this process will be complex but will do everything in our power, in partnership with East Ayrshire’s communities, to help them feel safe and settled as quickly as possible.”
On Wednesday 5 November, the Scottish Government’s refugee taskforce met with Europe Minister Humza Yousaf, following which an announcement was made that approximately 350 Syrian refugees would be arriving in Scotland before Christmas.
On Friday 20 November an awareness-raising session was held with local groups and employees who will be working directly with refugees in the coming months. This provided an overview of the context of the Syrian conflict, Syrian life, religion and guidance on cultural differences.
Funding will be provided by the UK Government for the resettlement of refugees throughout the UK.
The Gateway Protection Programme is the UK’s contribution to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) global resettlement programme. The majority of the world’s refugees who are fleeing persecution, violence and conflict are unable to travel far beyond the borders of their home country. They often live in refugee camps for years; many children have lived their entire lives in such camps.
One of the ways in which the UNHCR seeks to assist these refugees is to offer resettlement to another country. Resettlement allows refugees the opportunity to rebuild their lives in safety and security.
Candidates for resettlement to the UK will have been classified by UNHCR field offices as refugees and selected on the basis that they have pressing humanitarian or security needs, are not able to return to their countries of origin and cannot integrate locally. The Home Office then makes the decision on who to accept under the UK programme.
East Ayrshire Council anticipates receiving up to 50 refugees over a five year period.
Background information from the Home Office
When refugees arrive in the UK under the Vulnerable Persons Relocation scheme they have been through a thorough two-stage vetting process to ensure we know who is entering the country.
We take security extremely seriously in cases referred to us for resettlement, working closely with the UNHCR who have their own robust identification processes in place. This includes the taking of biometrics, documentary evidence and interviews.
When potential cases are submitted by the UNHCR for our consideration they are screened and considered by the Home Office for suitability for entry to the UK. This includes the taking of further biometric data. We retain the right to reject individuals on security, war crimes or other grounds, including where there is insufficient information to undertake effective screening.