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More Syrian refugees start new lives in Kent

By Rob Byrne

Seven refugee families from Syria have been welcomed to Kent in the last four months.

It brings the total number of vulnerable Syrian families settling in the county to 48, since 2014.

The figures, from Kent County Council, are revealed as Refugee Week runs across the UK.

Syrian refugees cross the border from Hungary to Serbia (2667184)
Syrian refugees cross the border from Hungary to Serbia (2667184)

The groups have started new lives here as part of the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme – a government programme identifying those most at risk in the country’s civil war. The conflict has displaced over half of the Syrian population since it began over seven years ago.

The project aims to resettle 20,000 refugees from camps in areas such as Iraq, Jordan and Turkey.

Nationally, 11,397 individuals came to the UK as part of the scheme.

When the resettlement programme launched in 2014 Kent’s councils were asked to make pledges on how many families they expected to help by 2020.

Tunbridge Wells council has taken in seven families so far and pledged to offer sanctuary to a total of 10 families by the target year.

Tonbridge & Malling Borough Council has so far resettled three households under the scheme and a fourth household is due to arrive at the end of this month. It said it would take a total of 10 families by 2020.

Maidstone Borough Council has taken in one family as part of the programme.

"We have set up English language classes and women's groups to support the recent and new arrivals" - Bridget Campbell

The council agreed to house six single males, but took in a family of six who needed immediate housing.

The council helping the most people is Ashford, which has so far provided sanctuary to 17 families. It promised to give a home to 250 people by 2020.

Cllr Derek Mortimer, Chairman of Communities, Housing and Environment at Maidstone Borough Council said: “We are always willing to look at additional ways to support refugee schemes but full consideration needs to be given to the welfare and support of those families in the area, so they can be fully and successfully integrated into the community.

“Councils, such as Ashford currently can offer more established local support than we can and also benefit from having a dedicated officer, funded by Kent County Council, to help facilitate SVPRS.

"We hope to be able to offer additional properties and further support in the future.”

Gravesham and Thanet councils have so far taken no people.

Bridget Campbell from the Kent Refugee Action Network (KRAN) said: “KRAN is delighted to be working with the local community and KCC to support the Syrian families being resettled in Kent and help them to integrate into the community where they are already making significant contributions.

"We have set up English language classes and women's groups to support the recent and new arrivals.”

These figures do not include the number of Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children (UASC) referred to the county.

Last year 214 were referred and 52 have been helped so far this year.

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