The first Syrian families fleeing persecution in the war-torn Middle East have arrived in Halifax to begin new lives.
The borough has welcomed the families as part of the government’s vulnerable persons relocation scheme and they are among those refugees identified as being most in need of our support.
The aim now is to offer the families a ‘lifeline’ and ensure they have access to the services they need to settle in.
And Calderdale Council is determined to do just that.
Councillor Steve Sweeney (Lab, Todmorden), who is also chair of the Regional Migration Partnership, coordinated by Migration Yorkshire. said: “I think it’s part of what everybody should be doing, everybody is responsible.
“We see an issue that we need to do something about. Personally, and it is personal, though I can speak on behalf of my political group, we would rather we were taking more than 50 people.
“I can’t understand authorities who aren’t doing this, it seems quite appalling really.
“We welcome them coming and we will try to provide the level of support that they need. People in Calderdale are very welcoming and I think they will do well here.
“I’m sure they would all like to go home to somewhere that isn’t at war, but we need to do what we can.
“The people we are taking, and the people we can provide the support to are families.
“At the moment we are not taking unaccompanied young people, but we would be looking to review that as our processes become established.”
St Augustine’s Centre, Hanson Lane, Halifax, which has partnered up with the council, will play a vital role in helping the 50 Syrian refugees Calderdale Council has pledged to resettle.
Coun Sweeney added: “We have officers who will help them become registered with GPs, look at their medical needs, we will find them school places.
“It’s all that process and there is a lot of it. If you suddenly arrive in a country, you have nothing, you have to almost register as ‘being somebody’ in the country from scratch.
“You arrive and you are shell shocked, so we can provide that level of support. In the longer term it’s looking at things like the social network support.
“Organisations like St Augustine’s will help with that in that they are used to it, they have the expertise and they’re slightly removed from official channels as they are a charity.
“It’s a great atmosphere and there are a lot of social networks you can establish with people who are in a similar position, as well as the staff they have to offer support.
“The social network is so crucial, you actually get to meet people who you can talk to, they can help with accommodation, advice, signpost, it is a much broader network than just St Augustine’s, but St Augustine’s does play a key role.”
The Yorkshire and Humber region has agreed to take around 1,500 Syrian refugees over the next two to three years as part of the Government’s commitment for the UK to bring in 20,000 people.
Migration Yorkshire is the organisation which will be co-ordinating the response for all the local authorities in our region.
More than 100 families have arrived already in six areas.