War refugees help refused because of cash shortage - The Malvern Observer

War refugees help refused because of cash shortage

Malvern Editorial 22nd Jul, 2015 Updated: 20th Oct, 2016   0

A CONTROVERSIAL bid to house Syrian refugees in Malvern has been rejected by the district council.

Calls had been made by a group of campaigners to offer vulnerable people from the war-torn country a place to stay ‘in the face of the worst refugee crisis since World War Two’.

Malvern Hills District Council approved the idea to hold further talks on taking families in December last year but following a heated debate at a full council meeting on Tuesday (July 14) 22 members voted in favour of not submitting a bid to the Home Office, 15 against and one abstention.

The move follows a similar decision by Worcestershire County Council not to take part in the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme due to ‘the financial risk involved’.

The Government scheme provides funding for 12 months but it is estimated to cost up to £150,000 to meet the needs of refugees – who would stay for at least five years.

MHDC also highlighted the lack of support from key organisations and partners and limited community and cultural support networks.

Speaking at the meeting, Ruth Forecast, part of Malvern Welcomes Syrian Refugees Steering Group, said: “We are painfully aware as we discuss and deliberate, the months go by and we have it in our power to help people who face the prospect of enduring yet another winter in unimaginably harsh camp conditions.

“Although this crisis is taking place in another part of the world, can we continue to ignore it? Will we do nothing? Or will we take our part in offering some of Syria’s refugees the chance to rebuild their lives?”

Coun Julian Roskams, leader of the democratic group, added: “When it comes to helping those in need, if not us, then who?

“Words alone are not enough, if you then cross the other side of the road and pass by, expecting others to help.”

Following the council’s decision, Coun Melanie Baker, portfolio holder for planning and housing, sent a letter to James Brokenshire MP, immigration and security minister, urging him to ask the Government and Home Office reconsider the funding of the scheme.

“It is disappointing the county council, our neighbouring authorities and key partners are unable to provide support at this time but I can understand their concerns,” Coun Baker said.

“Ever decreasing budgets are already being stretched to the limit and this means they are unable to commit to a five-year programme with estimated costs of £150,000 per annum after the first year, costs which would ultimately be paid for by South Worcestershire tax payers.

“MHDC would still wish to play a part in the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Relocation scheme but cannot do this without funding from central Government and the support of other councils and key partners.”

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