East Devon extends hand of help to Syrian refugees

PUBLISHED: 06:30 11 September 2015

Archant

Sympathies towards the Syrian refugee crisis have prompted residents from across Exmouth and East Devon to rally round and offer help.

Scores of residents this week contacted East Devon District Council (EDDC) in support of helping or accommodating refugees.

EDDC said it was willing to help those affected by the Syrian crisis, but was waiting on advice from the Government before acting.

Leader Paul Diviani said: “During the past 48 hours, EDDC has received a number of enquiries from concerned local residents regarding the Syrian refugee crisis, asking how they and the council will be able to help.

“While we are awaiting more detailed advice from the Government, we would like to express our deep concern about the refugee situation and to confirm that we are keen to assist in any way we can as part of a practical local support network to help refugees resettle successfully.”

Councillor Diviani said, as a housing authority, EDDC expected to work with Devon County Council (DCC) accommodating any refugees who may be allocated to the district.

He said in the past most refugees had been relocated to urban areas with ‘easier access’ to support services.

Journal readers turned to Facebook to express mixed reactions over rehoming refugees in East Devon.

Neil Parsons posted: “What about USA, Canada, Australia? They’ve got plenty of room. We need to look after our homeless first.”

Christine Ogden said: “Over-reacting; nope, I wouldn’t have them. Who helps me?”

Inese Stepanova commented: “Where has all the kindness gone? I am packing everything and more to give these poor people. I think the council are fantastic for helping and people who have a heart will help with donations.”

Behind the scenes, EDDC said it was working on ‘local arrangements and contributions’ to the crisis in readiness for a ‘co-ordinated approach’ with the Government and other authorities and agencies. A council spokeswoman said: “The process of assisting refugees is led by governmental policy and, in the case of Devon, normally co-ordinated locally by the county council.

“DCC is the relevant social services authority and it is anticipated that they will play a key part in any local offer of support.

“It would appear that the Government is looking to build on the existing Syrian vulnerable persons relocation scheme to target assistance to 20,000 vulnerable Syrian refugees in camps near the border, over the next five years.

“We understand that the United Nations high commissioner for refugees will help identify Syrians to be prioritised for resettlement and organise transport to UK airports.

“The Refugee Council will then transfer refugees to areas offering support. This is a voluntary scheme and to date it has been mainly cities and towns involved in the complex process of resettling refugees.”

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