Scottish Borders Council look to house 11 more refugee families

The Borders is set to welcome 11 more refugee families fleeing war and poverty in Syria. 

By Joseph Anderson, Local Democracy Reporter
Monday, 24th August 2020, 11:45 am
Scottish Borders Councillor Tom Weatherston.
Scottish Borders Councillor Tom Weatherston.

Scottish Borders Council, as part of the UK Government’s Syrian Resettlement Programme, has so far housed nine families, and is due to house another as soon as appropriate housing becomes available. 

As part of the scheme, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees identifies those most at risk and brings them to the United Kingdom from refugee camps in the Middle East.

In addition to normal state benefits, the Home Office provides £20,520 in funding for each refugee over the 60 months they are registered on the scheme. 

This is to support integration and language development, and the children of refugees born in the United Kingdom do not qualify for this funding.

The nine families which have already been housed have been settling into the Borders community, with the children attending local schools, young adults earning trade qualifications and older family members acquiring English language qualifications.

A council report reads: “All families have settled in housing, children are enrolled in school/education, and health and benefit obligations have been met. 

“Additional English language classes have been arranged through English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL), despite progress this continues to represent the greatest barrier to integration and employment.

“The Eildon locality was chosen for the families due to availability of amenities, in particular transport and health.

“Language support is a high priority, in addition to formal classes volunteering has been popular, in particular among the women. 

“A number of the family members have completed and exceeded entry level three of the formal language training deemed sufficient to function in their everyday life. 

“This has been a significant milestone for the adult learners. The children have become the most proficient in their use of language. 

“Attendance at Borders College is popular with one past and one present student.

“Both have studied trade-based qualifications.”

Now, the council is considering housing an extra 10 refugee families, in addition to the 10 it has already committed to resettling. 

At the next full meeting of the council, scheduled for Thursday, August 27, councillors will be asked to green light the resettling of the refugee families, subject to funding from the UK Government. 

Councillor Tom Weatherston, executive member for adult social care, said: “The council and a range of partner organisations including the voluntary sector have been working together over the past five years to ensure Syrian refugee families are properly settled and supported in our area.

“We are keen that the Borders continues to play its part in providing support to the national co-ordinated effort to welcome refugees. 

“The approval of this report would be another hugely positive step forward.

“These are vulnerable people who have undergone traumatic experiences and I sincerely hope that all the people of the Borders will continue to welcome them into their communities.”