Lewisham Council is set to welcome up to 10 families fleeing the brutal Syrian civil war under a Home Office and United Nations backed initiative.
A report to Lewisham Council’s Mayor and Cabinet meeting to be considered tonight, 7 September recommends how to progress the borough’s participation in the Syrian Vulnerable Person Relocation scheme.
Councillor Kevin Bonavia, Cabinet Member for Resources, said: “We have all seen via the media the terrible suffering experienced by ordinary Syrian people as the country has been torn apart.
“Many millions of people have been forced to flee their homes and hundreds of thousands have been killed in the violence.
“Here in Lewisham, many individuals, as well as our faith and other community groups, have been trying to help as best they can, including offering accommodation.
“As a council, and on behalf of our residents, it is important we do what all we can in the face of this awful humanitarian crisis – so resettling this small number of families with the help of our community is the least we can do.”
In July the council hosted a meeting of community groups in the borough to examine the issue of asylum seekers, refugees and migrants in Lewisham.
The meeting looked at the work already being done in Lewisham with refugees, the support available from local voluntary and community groups, and the experience of other London councils.
From this meeting it was agreed that a Lewisham Refugee Offer would be developed to help house and settle any Syrian intake. Offers of accommodation from the local voluntary and community sector followed, and residents have already started making offers of donations and support. The council will be coordinating these offers to ensure that wherever possible, additional resettlement needs are met through the local community.
In the Mayor and Cabinet report it is recommended that these offers combined with properties from the private rented sector are used to house any refugee families coming to Lewisham.
The Government will contribute to the cost of their resettlement for five years from the international aid budget. The Home Office will select the families that could be housed in the borough, as well as carrying out the necessary medical and security checks.
Cllr Bonavia added: “As a borough we have experienced many waves of migration with around half our residents from Black and Minority Ethnic communities and we are well prepared and well suited to potentially welcoming these 10 new families.”
For more information on the resettlement of Syrian Refugee Households in Lewisham visit the Mayor and Cabinet report here: http://councilmeetings.lewisham.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=139&MId=4304
For more information on the Syrian Vulnerable Person Relocation scheme visit: http://researchbriefings.parliament.uk/ResearchBriefing/Summary/SN06805