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Highland Council to welcome further refugees following successful rehousing of Syrian refugees in Dingwall, Alness, Inverness and Kinlochleven

By Philip Murray

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Highland Council news.
Highland Council news.

A REFUGEE resettlement programme which has successfully rehoused almost two dozen Syrian families in Ross-shire and other parts of the Highlands is to be extended.

Some 23 families have been resettled in the Highland Council area since it committed to accept around 25-30 families between 2015 and 2020.

They have found new homes in Dingwall, Alness, Inverness and Kinlochleven.

Councillors heard the scheme – which is funded by the UK government – had been a success when the health, social care and wellbeing committee met on Wednesday. And they voted to extend it to another 25 refugees in the coming 2020/21 financial year.

Chairwoman of the committee, Cllr Linda Munro, said: “There are only positive implications from this scheme, with particularly vulnerable families being able to settle in Highland. There are further positive impacts from new residents and cultures within a community.”

Highland Council has been working with partners since 2015 in preparation for Syrian families coming to Highland.

A Refugee Resettlement Strategic Group (RRSG) was established in 2015 and includes officers from the Highland Council, NHS Highland, Police Scotland, DWP, Highlife Highland and the Highland Third Sector Interface, ensuring excellent cross-sectoral working across the Highland public and third sectors.

In order to ensure the best outcome for Syrian families, area specific delivery groups were established for each phase to ensure all arrangements were put in place prior to arrival.

Cllr Munro added: “Third sector organisations, with support from many individuals, have arranged welcome parties, provided the most appropriate clothing and food, helped with transport, social integration and generally been there as huge support.

“Businesses have employed a number of refugees, and some have moved on to further and higher education and all are learning English.

"Young people in schools have been outstanding ambassadors for the programme, leading the way in welcoming their new friends to their communities and helping them to integrate.”

The council also acknowledged there have been challenges for it and its partners during delivery of the scheme, most of which had been caused by rurality and lack of locally-based services such as availability of housing stock, housing support, interpretation, education and English for speakers of other languages.

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