The first Syrian families to resettle in the Outer Hebrides under a UK Government-funded scheme have arrived and are settling into their new accommodation in Stornoway.
The two related families, eight people in total including young children, are now busy undertaking the wide range of appointments and processes required to enable them to become part of our community. A priority will be an intensive course of English language classes although an interpreter service will be available in the first few weeks.
The resettlement scheme was set up in response to the war in Syria and increased in scale following decisions by the UK Government to resettle 20,000 Syrians in the UK. The Scottish Government pledged to receive 4,000 refugees. Local authorities throughout Scotland committed to the scheme to provide some aid in response to the humanitarian crisis caused by the Syrian war. The five year long civil war has resulted in a lack of food and medical care is sparse whilst employment, education, cultural and social experiences have been severely curtailed. Many people have fled the war in their own country to avoid violence and are now seeking a better life elsewhere.
Experience elsewhere has shown that refugees’ priorities are to live in a safe area where their children can attend school and they can earn a living. This is has been reflected in the early wishes of the families who have been welcomed to the Outer Hebrides.
Angus Campbell, Chair of the OHCPP and Leader of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, said: “The various agencies, community organisations and volunteers are currently working to give the families the basic support and space that they need to re-adjust to family life here in the Hebrides. I am heartened to hear that a welcoming response from our community has already been appreciated by the families. We are already a diverse community and whilst we can offer much to people moving here, we can also learn from others and increase the richness of our society. I think that communities in Scotland generally and particularly in the Outer Hebrides, have an understanding of why people sometimes have to leave their homes and everything they know in order to start a new life elsewhere.”
Volunteers, who registered on the website set up to allow the public to offer assistance, will now be engaged where required. There have been offers of befriending services, help with language and offers of donations of household items.
A spokesperson for the Volunteer Centre said: “We currently have enough volunteers to offer a range of support. We hope that this will help the families to start to get some familiarity with their new setting, and hope that they will be able to get involved in the community as time goes on.”
The families receive the same support as other homeless households in the community who require accommodation. The UK Government Home Office provides funding to cover key costs to partners associated with the resettlement of Syrian families and any specific needs over and above.
Angus Campbell concluded by saying that “Our services have been informed by the families that they do not wish to talk to the press or indeed be photographed during their daily life and I am sure now that we know this we can all respect that. We can now just allow the families to resettle”.