Council backs plan to buy two homes for Syrian refugees
Councillors have unanimously backed plans to buy houses for two families fleeing war-torn Syria.
The proposal, presented to the full council on Wednesday, will see the council buy two homes as part of the Scottish Government’s Syrian Vulnerable Person’s Relocation scheme.
The plans were roundly welcomed by councillors at the meeting with many voicing a belief that Shetland should do its part to help resettle families caught up in unrest in the region.
“Social responsibility does not end at national borders”, said Lerwick North councillor John Fraser.
In 2015 the SIC agreed to participate in the government’s scheme to rehouse Syrian refugees and since then the councils in Orkney and the Western Isles have resettled two and four families respectively. In that same period Shetland did not take any families and this was in part due to the fact accommodation would likely have been in the North Isles where accessing services would have been difficult.
The council will now look to procure two houses in, or near, Lerwick, costing up to £160,000 each, after SIC political leader Cecil Smith’s motion to approve the proposal passed unopposed. The Scottish government will contribute a grant of £57,000 per house towards this goal.
Further funding will be provided to cover local authority costs from the Overseas Development Aid budget on a per person tariff basis. A sum of £8,520 per person will be available in the first year and this will gradually be decreased to £1,000 in year five. Additional support is also available for medical and educational needs.
Earlier in the meeting councillors posed questions about the logistics of the proposals to the council’s director of development services Neil Grant.
Shetland North member Alastair Cooper said that he felt “getting a job” was an important part of integrating into any community before asking whether “one of the attractions of Shetland” could be the availability of “certain jobs that [the refugees] could fill”.
Mr Grant said that the “place programme can discuss the kinds of jobs available in Shetland”, adding that the resettlement scheme could prove to be “a real win, win in terms of employment”.
In debate a number of councillors offered their support. this included North Isles member Ryan Thomson who said “not seeing this through is not an option as far as I’m concerned”.
• For more see Friday’s Shetland Times