Devon is playing its part in meeting the UK government’s pledge to bring 20,000 of the most vulnerable Syrian refugees to the UK by 2020.
The government’s programme focusses on Syrian refugees who have fled to the countries around Syria and are registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The UNHCR identifies individuals and families who are particularly vulnerable for medical or other reasons. The UK Government carries out security screening before deciding whether to accept a family.
If the UK Government agrees to resettle a Syrian family, it gives them a humanitarian visa for five years. This gives family members the right to work and to use public services.
What Devon is doing
Local councils working together across Devon have offered to house at least 74 Syrian families over that time. The UK Government provides funding for housing and other council costs under the resettlement programme. The first few families have arrived and are settling into homes in Devon.
The families will live in private rented properties that the landlord has offered or agreed to rent to refugee families. Syrian refugee families do not get any preferential treatment for housing.
Councils volunteer to participate in the programme and can control the rate at which families arrive. This depends on the supply of sustainable and affordable housing from private landlords.
Devon has formed a partnership to help families to settle in and lead independent, safe and productive lives. This includes professionals from the NHS, education and social care who make sure that local services will be able to meet refugees’ needs. Community and voluntary organisations are taking the lead in helping families get to know the local area and UK culture, make contact with faith and support groups, learn English and where possible get into work.
Refugee families have been through great hardship and settling in a new country is a huge challenge. Families are entitled to privacy, so councils will not make individual announcements about the timing and locations of resettlement.
According to the United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR), over 4.8 million Syrians have now fled from their country as refugees. Most of them are in the countries around Syria. That is where the biggest need is.
Making a donation to one of the international aid organisations will make a difference. All major aid organisations are accepting donations: British Red Cross, Oxfam, Save the Children, UNHCR, UNICEF and others. If you would like to donate, go online and search “donate for Syrian refugees”. The Charity Commission offers advice on giving safely to refugee appeals.
Refugee Support Devon are playing an important part in coordinating offers of support for refugees in Devon and always need volunteers to help. They are particularly interested to hear from Arabic speakers, but all help is welcome. If you can offer any of your time, please contact them by email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The number of Syrian refugees in Devon will grow only gradually, so we do not need large amounts of clothes, toys, furniture or appliances. But there are particular household items that will be very helpful. Refugee Support Devon keeps an up-to-date list of the things we need. Please contact them by email at email@example.com if you want to buy items or pledge money to help buy the most important things.
Rent a property
More than anything else, we need self-contained homes for refugee families. If you are a landlord – or you know someone who is – who would consider renting a property to accommodate a refugee family, please get in touch with your city/district council housing team:
- East Devon: firstname.lastname@example.org 01395 517469
- Exeter: email@example.com 01392 265723 or firstname.lastname@example.org 01392 26 5833
- South Hams and West Devon: email@example.com
- Teignbridge: firstname.lastname@example.org
We know that some people would like to offer spare rooms. We are grateful for these offers, but we need self-contained housing where families can lead independent lives.
Find out more