DINGWALL residents will display the warm hospitality that Ross-shire is famous for to the Syrian refugees who will be housed in the town in the new year, according to its civic leader.
Five families are expected, although this could change, and town councillors have urged neighbours to welcome them in the same way they would any other new arrival.
Concerns have been raised by Dingwall Community Council about whether neighbours would be given advice in advance, in case of emergencies.
However, council officials have made assurances that there will be constant support for the refugees during their first year in the Highlands.
The group is expected to arrive in January, following security checks – 18 months after five families were resettled in the neighbouring town of Alness.
The families will be housed in council properties and will be granted a five-year refugee visa.
On Wednesday evening, ahead of a public engagement event at Ross County Football Club, Ross and Cromarty civic leader Margaret Paterson said the county had been chosen for the second time to reflect the historic welcoming nature of the district.
“We have a history of being welcoming people and that goes back many years,” she said.
“We are very friendly people and in the past when we had to leave Scotland’s shores in the Highland Clearances we were made welcome elsewhere and we will never forget that.
“The refugees coming have been through a tremendous ordeal and I am sure many individuals, voluntary groups and local businesses and organisations will want to help them settle in and will rally together to provide the support and hospitality that we are known across the world for.”
Resettlement officer Peter Broomfield said volunteers have been invaluable to the families who are already in the Highlands and asked anybody interested in helping to contact the council.
Dingwall Community Council chairman Nigel Greenwood said he was confident the council, NHS Highland and the police had prepared for the latest arrival in Dingwall.
“There is a difference between these people who are being housed here because they have had to flee their own country, and someone who has chosen to come and live in Dingwall,” he said.
“We just want to be able to welcome them and support them without being in their faces.”
The latest group comes as part of the Highland Syrian Resettlement Programme, which will see 25 to 30 families coming to live in the region in the next five years.
Four families have also been placed in Lochaber as part of the scheme, paid for by the UK Home Office.