Syrian refugee crisis: West Midlands council leaders promise to 'do their bit'

Council leaders promised they would 'do our bit' to help Syrian refugees expected to come to the West Midlands.

Syrian refugee crisis: West Midlands council leaders promise to 'do their bit'

Around 100 refugees are estimated to be coming to the Black Country and Staffordshire if councils agree to take a share of the 20,000 the UK has vowed to accept.

The figure is worked out based on Wolverhampton council alone planning for around 20 individuals.

Council leader Roger Lawrence, chairman of the West Midlands Strategic Migration Partnership, said he had been receiving letters from people on both sides of the argument - some urging the council to take refugees in and some saying it should not.

But council leaders across the Black Country are concerned that they have been given no assurances funding to help refugees will continue after a year.

"At the moment the government is saying it will continue support for one year. But councils in the Local Government Association say that is not sufficient," Councillor Lawrence said.

Refugees will come to the Black Country from Syria entitled to work, unlike people applying for asylum or appealing the decision.

And they will be here on a five year 'humanitarian' visa and granted a one-off allowance of £200 each for clothing.

They will also be taken from camps in and around Syria, rather than the people who have already made the perilous journey to Europe and arrived by the boatload on the shores of Greece.

Syrians arrive in Lesbos, where the island has been transformed by the sudden arrival of around 20,000 refugees and migrants
A girl cries as she waits on a bus which will transport her family to the metro station in Lesbos

"There are already 400 people in Wolverhampton as part of the asylum contract anyway," Councillor Lawrence said.

"There will be an impact in housing in the private rented sector but it's limited.

"Providing that we know where people are and what they need, it is manageable."

Councillor Lawrence said it was unlikely that any council housing would be used for refugees.

Sandwell Council's leader Darren Cooper said no decision had been made.

He said: "Taking 10 to 20 should not be a significant problem and we will want to do our bit to help.

"But my priority first and foremost must be the people of Sandwell. There will be pressures on housing, health and education and the government must make sure it provides us with the resources."

Dudley Council's leader Pete Lowe added: "We are working along the same lines as Wolverhampton. The funding is relevant and it is important but we must do what we can to alleviate the suffering of those in humanitarian hardship."

Staffordshire County Council has not yet confirmed a number but said it will take refugees.

Councillor Mike Bird, Leader of Walsall Council said: "The Council is awaiting details from the Government on its plans for providing long term financial support for the care of Syrian refugees. When this information is received, it will be possible to determine the extent of any offer that may be made to refugees. In the meantime the council is in discussion with partner agencies in order to test out capacity to offer support."

Emma Reynolds, MP for Wolverhampton North East and Labour's shadow local government secretary, said: "While I welcome the change in the government's approach in deciding to accept Syrian refugees, it must make sure that proper funding is in place to help councils, which have already taken the biggest cuts in the public sector.

"They are already under financial pressure in Wolverhampton, the Black Country and beyond."

A girl takes water from a hose in Lesbos while waiting with her family to board a ferry to Athens

Meanwhile oil-rich Arab states have been urged to show compassion to their neighbours in Syria and accept refugees.

Muhammad Yaseen Khan, President of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in Wolverhampton said:

"Genuine refugees are facing great difficulties. They have been forced to leave their countries due to the intolerable conditions and so should be treated with love, compassion and kindness.

"The entire world will have to show compassion and open hearts for this crisis to be handled. Rather than looking at their own interests only, nations will have to consider their moral responsibilities to those who are suffering.

"Proper control measures should be in place to make sure that the refugees are genuine and not extremists or terrorists posing as refugees.

"The world should also seek an enduring resolution to the crisis so that in six to 12 months from now we are not faced with another migrant crisis."

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