Councillors offer helping hand to refugees

North Devon Gazette

In March last year, the Community and Resources Committee at Torridge District Council voted to participate in the Government led Syrian Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme.Â
The national scheme aspired to accepting around 20,000 Syrian refugees into the UK, displaced by the fighting in their region. Across Devon this was coordinated by Devon County Council and managed on the ground by local charities. Â
To date, 48 families comprising 211 individuals have been resettled in Devon with two families relocated in Torridge with the support of local charity, TARKA community sponsorship.Â
Although the original timetable and progress of this scheme has been delayed by the recent Covid pandemic, the Syrian scheme is set to be relaunched this year. As part of this, there are now plans to extend the scope of the project to urgent support for Afghan people and their families, who were locally employed and worked side by side with UK armed forces in Afghanistan. Â
Many of these worked in support roles, such as interpreters during the recent conflicts, and there is a fear that some may now find themselves in danger of reprisals, as foreign troops withdraw from their homeland. Councillors were asked to vote on the addition of the so called Afghan LES (Locally Employed Staff) relocation scheme to the existing Syrian refugee scheme.Â
The vote was overwhelmingly in favour of this addition and it means that the procurement of both schemes can happen simultaneously and operate side by side going forward. The initial funding for the relocation will come from the home office who will shortly be announcing the detail and setting out how the scheme will operate.Â
Torridge District Council Lead Member for Housing – Councillor Clarke said: “Torridge has an excellent track record of supporting the vulnerable and the needy and its right that we should also play our part on the international stage when the need arises. Â
“Local charities charged with managing the project will take the lead in finding suitable private sector accommodation and it’s great that with everybody’s help we will be able to bring some desperately needed comfort and security to those families that choose Torridge as their place to relocate to and settle.”   Â