26 November 2016
The Refugee Council & Herts Welcome Syrian Families (HWSF)
VL and DJN for the North Herts & Stevenage Green Party
The Refugee Council are one of the leading charities in the UK, working directly with refugees to help them rebuild their lives. In Hertfordshire, the community group, Herts Welcome Syrian Families (HWSF) support the work of the Refugee Council. The aims of the group include urging local and County Councillors to accept refugees who meet the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Relocation criteria (SVPR), and welcoming and supporting these refugees when they arrive. Since the beginning of the 2011 conflict in Syria at least 6.5 million people have been forced to flee their homes. More than 3 million have found refuge in neighbouring countries such as Jordan, swelling the population of those countries (by up to a quarter in Lebanon).
How it works
In 2014 our Home Secretary announced an intention to relocate some of the most vulnerable people, and allocated funding. They were to be given 5 years’ humanitarian protection in the UK, including all rights and benefits. The refugees come from a variety of backgrounds and require varying levels of support. The programme is designed to help Syrian families who have fled to neighbouring countries as a result of the current crises and who are particularly vulnerable. Cases will primarily, but not exclusively, fall into three categories of vulnerability: survivors of violence and torture, woman and children at risk, and those in need of medical care. It is important to remember that these people enrich communities, and many are likely to have skilled, professional backgrounds. So far, 65 Syrian people have been resettled in Hertfordshire via the SVPR programme. Nationally this figure stands at 2,898.
A Volunteer Outreach Worker’s view
Local Green Party member Vicky went to a public meeting at the Ethic Minority Forum in Hitchin on the 4th August 2016. One of the speakers was a Syrian orthopaedic surgeon who had been an eyewitness to some of the injuries and trauma inflicted, especially to children. He described the terrifying situation in Syria – the torturing, disappearances, loss of freedom, and complicated political situation. Some politicians present a cold face, but many people feel differently.
“People from the UK are poorly represented in the media,” said Vicky. “I feel that the majority of the British population are caring and want to do more.”
Vicky was prompted to act, and volunteered to be an outreach worker for the Refugee Council. She has undergone screening, and is looking forward to her forthcoming induction. Her duties will involve helping families settle in, and helping them orientate to daily life and British culture.
“It’s simple things, that we all take for granted,” she said. “Everything from learning how to use our public transport systems, knowing how to keep yourself safe, how to access healthcare, our traditions and the expectations of British society.”
When asked what the biggest challenge would be, she said she thought it would be the language barrier. The families receive English lessons as part of the integration package and the children are given places in school. When asked about her ultimate aim for the work, she looked thoughtful and said:
“I want to feel like I’m helping these people to integrate. What anyone wants for their family is happiness, a sense of belonging and normality. All they want is to live in safety without fear, and I want to support that. I urge anyone who wants to do more, to get in contact with HWSF network. They have regular collections and social events. Details can be found on their Facebook page.”
http://hwsf.weebly.com This is the Facebook page for the HWSF network. It describes how to help or get involved.