Syrian families welcomed to Orkney

Two families from war-torn Syria are starting to build a new life in Orkney, after arriving in the county on Friday.

The families, both with young children, were living in refugee camps in the Middle East after they were forced to leave their own homes during the Syrian conflict.

They were offered the chance to live in Kirkwall after the Home Office took up an offer from Orkney Islands Council to provide accommodation for two families caught up in the fighting – as part of a UK-wide resettlement programme.

“This is a big step for the families and everyone involved is keen to make sure they experience a warm welcome as they start new lives in a community that is very different to their own,” said Frances Troup, Orkney Islands Council’s head of housing.

“It helps greatly that this is such a welcoming community. There’s been a tremendous response from organisations and individuals – all committed to ensuring that the parents and their children soon feel at home in Orkney.”

More than 20 local people have volunteered to assist with this.

Under the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme, the Government has made a commitment to resettle 20,000 people from refugee camps in communities across the UK by 2020.

The scheme gives priority to people in greatest need, including those who have survived torture and violence, and women and children at risk. People often live in refugee camps for years and many children have lived their entire lives in such precarious circumstances.

Ms Troup added: “Refugees are often concerned that publicity about their new lives in the UK could put at risk family members still in Syria. We would ask that the families are not approached by the media or photographed as they go about their everyday lives – so that, with help and support, they can settle in to their new community.”