South Cambridgeshire District Council will offer housing to four refugee families a year for the next three years, in a plan agreed by the council’s cabinet this week. Over the past 18 months, the council has helped four refugee families from war-torn areas (15 individuals) settle in the district, and this week’s decision aims to build on this effort to assist those most in need.
Aidan Van de Weyer, Deputy Leader of the council and the Lib Dem candidate for Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, said:
“We don’t live in a bubble in South Cambs. What happens beyond our borders affects us, however indirectly. If the world outside South Cambs gets better, we benefit. If the world outside South Cambs gets worse, we lose too.
“The suffering of others does not make us better off; it diminishes us. This is true whether the suffering occurs just over the border in Suffolk or 2000 miles away in a Syrian refugee camp in Lebanon. We have the chance to make some tiny contribution to reducing some of that suffering.
“The circumstances of these refugees are unimaginable to us. We don’t have the mental tools to comprehend their experiences. In addition to being refugees, the people that this programme accepts are among the most vulnerable, so their suffering is compounded. And this makes our decision to offer them housing here all the more important.
“I am very proud to have participated in making the decision to continue showing solidarity with the people of Syria, and to help alleviate some of the misery that Assad and the Syrian regime have inflicted.”
The families helped will include those who have been forced from their homes in Syria, Iran or Sudan, who require urgent medical treatment, and who are survivors of violence and torture.
In order for the council’s plan to be carried out over the next three years, it is hoped the government will continue its funding under the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme, which is part of the UN’s project to aid refugees in Syria and surrounding countries.
Local families who are already on the council’s housing list will not face a longer wait because of this scheme; the council will decide which accommodation it offers to the refugee programme, in order to minimise any effect on demand in the district.
Councillor Hazel Smith, Lead Cabinet Member for Housing for South Cambs, said: “We are really pleased to have been able to help some refugees, who were fleeing terrible conditions, find new homes in South Cambridgeshire. This is now about continuing to do the right thing as human beings. Hopefully, these new arrangements will help change the lives of some of the most deserving people.
"I know that South Cambridgeshire residents will continue to extend a warm welcome to new members of our community in the months and years ahead. With our stock of around 5,500 council homes, we will be able to decide which properties are offered as part of this programme. Therefore, as with the first phase of this scheme, we do not anticipate this arrangement having any impact on council house waiting lists.”