Local organisations and agencies in Shetland are gearing up for the possibility of offering housing and other services to Syrian refugees who flee to the UK.
SIC chief executive Mark Boden on Thursday asked the Shetland Partnership Board, comprising representatives from NHS Shetland, Shetland Charitable Trust, the council, police and voluntary organisations, to support a community approach to taking part in the Syrian Resettlement Scheme, which is an extension of the Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme. This was unanimously supported.
At the full council meeting on Tuesday members will be asked to vote on a motion from council leader Gary Robinson and deputy leader Billy Fox that Shetland should work with the Scottish government on a scheme to relocate Syrian refugees across the country.
In his report to the partnership board on Thursday, Mr Boden confirmed that early planning work had already been done by council officials to consider the impact of refugees would have on accommodation, education and health within the isles.
Mr Boden praised the community effort which had already gathered money and donations for the displaced people
After the meeting Mr Fox said the Shetland community had traditionally aided those in need and the community response so far in money and donations had been “outstanding”.
He said: “Shetland has always responded to crises.”
There had been several caveats in the report by the chief executive, Mr Fox said, including pointing out to the Scottish government that the cost of living in Shetland could be up to 40 per cent higher than on the mainland. And people with health issues could possibly be better resettled nearer to larger centres.
He said if any refugees came to Shetland the numbers would be low, and added: “A political solution has to be found.
Meanwhile a new group to support refugees has been set up during the last week. Called Shetland Supports Refugees, the group’s mission statement is: “To help bring together like-minded groups and individuals to facilitate the integration of refugees into the Shetland community.”
Organiser Wendy Sinclair said the group aimed to set up a support network for any refugees who may come to the isles. That would cover faith, education, language and offer friendship and integration into the community.
Mrs Sinclair said: “We aim to work as a community liaison for any refugees coming to Shetland, and hope to provide the people of Shetland who wish to help the refugees embroiled in the ongoing crisis with an opportunity to do so.”
She said that a number of people had indicated their willingness to offer accommodation to refugees. She added: “Where necessary, we hope to make this a reality.”
Mrs Sinclair attended the partnership board, and said was delighted that there had been “no negativity”.
However, she said taking refugees into the isles would take time, and people would be assessed to see if Shetland was the best place for them – if they had health issues, for instance, Aberdeen might be better
For more information contact Mrs Sinclair on 07340 936382 or email firstname.lastname@example.org