Highland Council update on refugees

Highland Council is continuing to work with COSLA and community planning partners to plan and prepare for welcoming Syrian refugees to the Highlands.

The Council and partners are close to completing preparations to enable them to receive up to 5 Syrian refugee families to the Inner Moray Firth area in the first re-settlement in the Highlands.

The Council has agreed with COSLA to take up to 25 - 30 families, over the period of the national re-settlement programme, subject to the confirmation of available housing.

Regular meetings are continuing to take place with NHS Highland, Police Scotland, Highland Third Sector Interface and the Department for Work and Pensions to discuss issues including accommodation, employment, education and health.

A working group of officers from the Council, NHS Highland, Police Scotland, DWP and the voluntary sector continues to prepare for the arrival of the refugees and has been consulting with local authorities across Scotland to gather information and best practice.

Leader of The Highland Council, Councillor Margaret Davidson said: “I am very pleased with the progress and preparations that are being made among the partners in the refugee working group. Preparations are well in hand and the Council is closer to notifying the Home Office that they can welcome Syrian refugees to the Highlands.”

Julian Innes, Divisional Commander said: “Highland and Islands Division, as part of Police Scotland, is committed to working in partnership with local authorities and organisations to help ensure Syrian refugees settling in the Highlands are able to integrate into communities safely and successfully.

"Local officers will continue to work with partners to ensure that everyone - whatever their culture, race or religion - is treated with respect, fairness and dignity at all times.”

Dr Ken Oates, Consultant in Public Health Medicine, said: "NHS Highland are working closely with other agencies and local general practitioners to ensure that the refugee families have access to high quality health care. We will do all we can to meet their needs which we anticipate may also include mental health and dental health issues."

Mhairi Wylie, Chief Officer, Highland Third Sector Interface said:We will be co-ordinating volunteers to provide additional support and practical advice to families coming into the area.  The intention is to allow local people to both tell their story about the place the live in while also supporting the families through practical interventions and advice. 

“We have been overwhelmed by both the numbers and the enthusiasm from the people applying to become a Greeter.  Unfortunately we won’t be able to take everyone through in this role but we are committed to working with all of these incredible people to maximise the support available to families upon their arrival in a multitude of different ways. 

“The energy and commitment shown by our volunteers to date has been awe-inspiring and infectious.  With their support I believe that Highland can be proud of its response to this incredibly unfortunate circumstance and offer a genuine, local and embracing welcome to families who have experienced tragedy; which thankfully so few of us will ever be in a position fully relate to.”

3 Feb 2016
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