London Salvation Army welcomes Syrian family
Full support will aid family’s integration for the next year.
The Salvation Army has welcomed its first refugee family under the Community Sponsorship scheme recently introduced by the UK Government—a commitment to resettle 20,000 Syrian refugees by 2020. Fleeing conflict in Syria, the family had lost their home and been identified by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) as being particularly vulnerable and in need of resettlement to the UK.
“It has been months in the making—preparing accommodation, looking at schools, identifying access to appropriate medical support and language tuition—but we have never lost sight of our motivation to help resettle a family under this scheme,” said Major Nick Coke, Refugee Coordinator for The Salvation Army.
The Community Sponsorship scheme aims to enable community groups to be involved in the protection of vulnerable refugees fleeing war and conflict by supporting their resettlement. A similar scheme in Canada has resettled over 280,000 people since the 1970s and is widely deemed a success. A recent report released by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada found that privately supported refugees (i.e. those welcomed by community sponsorship) tended to integrate far better into society, having higher incidence of employment, higher earnings and lower reliance of social assistance compared with government assisted refugees that do not have that community network.
Merton Council is the first London borough to help welcome a refugee family as part of the scheme.
“In November last year we assisted the Home Office in reuniting 44 unaccompanied refugee children from the Calais ‘Jungle’ with their extended families in Britain,” Coke said. “It was one of the most powerful experiences of my life as a Salvation Army officer—watching young people the same age as my son find sanctuary and unconditional welcome. A day has not passed when I haven’t thought of the thousands still waiting to reach safety.”
This government effort, Coke said, empowers citizens to work together to do something practical to help refugees.
“Everyone from the Home Office to our local authority has been instrumental in enabling our community to make this happen,” he said. “People have been so warm and enthusiastic.” Coke said that the Syrian wife of a local restaurant owner prepared a meal when the family arrived, a local English language charity is supporting tuition, and congregation members and friends have done everything from getting the accommodation’s keys cut and donating furniture to cleaning the house and collecting toys for the children.