CAMPAIGNERS in Malvern are set to step up their efforts to get councillors behind their bid to offer Syrian refugees a place to stay in the town.
A rallying call has been issued by steering group, Malvern Welcomes Syrian Families, which aims to play an ‘inspiration role’ in supporting the millions of people fleeing the war-torn country.
At a meeting last Thursday (June 18), Worcestershire County Council’s cabinet refused to back the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Relocation (VPR) scheme as the Tory leadership said it ‘feared the financial implication’ as it could be ‘very significant’.
However, campaign group member Ruth Forecast told the Observer they were hopeful of getting councillors’ backing before the proposals were put before full council on July 9.
“We have decided to lobby all of the councillors in advance of the meeting as we believe we can convince them to not to accept the recommendation of the cabinet by providing further information,” she said.
Councillors’ concerns come after receiving ‘no guarantees’ from the Government about getting funding beyond the first year as it could cost council taxpayers between £100,000 and 150,000 a year to support 12 Syrian families.
But Ms Forecast said she believed council leaders were being ‘over-pessimistic’, adding there was ‘overwhelming’ support for the scheme in Malvern.
“Although this crisis is taking place in another part of the world, we can’t continue to ignore it,” she said.
“This is an opportunity for Malvern and Worcestershire to be an inspiring example of welcome and inclusiveness and a role model for other communities across the UK and beyond.”
The VPR scheme runs in parallel with the Government’s existing refugee resettlement programme. That has seen 143 Syrians relocated to the UK in the past nine months.
Although saying the project was best suited to large, metropolitan cities, the cabinet has agreed to review the situation if the Home Office’s funding arrangements changed.
And Coun John Raine, who put forward the motion, said he felt there was plenty of cause for optimism.
“Having spoken to others involved in the Syrian and other refugee relocation schemes, it is clear that the Home Office is prepared to be flexible,” he said.
“Other councils that have sought funding assurances from Government have found the flexibility on offer to have been sufficient to enable them to proceed with bids.”