First Syrian refugees to arrive in Colchester within five weeks

A march through Colchester on Saturday in solidarity with refugees

A march through Colchester on Saturday in solidarity with refugees - Credit: Archant

Five Syrian refugee families will be housed in Colchester before Christmas.

Essex is to provide homes for the five families who will arrive in the first wave of 1,000 refugees arriving in Britain in the next few weeks.

Colchester was chosen after an assessment of available housing options by district, borough and city councils across the county.

A march was held in the town on Saturday by a number of charitable groups outlining their support for refugees coming to Colchester.

David Finch, Essex County Council leader, said: “I would like to thank all of our council partners who have worked with us to put forward available housing options, either through their own housing or within the private sector.

“We made a commitment that Essex would play its part to help people fleeing from the humanitarian crisis in Syria, and I am delighted we have been able to work together to welcome five families in time for their first British Christmas.

“I would also like to thank the Essex Church of England bishops who have also not only offered housing, but are also working with local charities to look at what further support they can provide.”

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The county council is working closely with the Home Office, who through the UN’s refugee agency the UNHCR, are identifying specific families who have been displaced, and ensuring they are security checked before travelling into the country.

Although the housing situation can change, Essex partners are confident of housing 20 families over the coming year.

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Tina Bourne, Colchester borough councillor for housing, said: “I am extremely proud Colchester has been proactive in order to address this issue. The borough is fortunate to have an active and capable voluntary sector, which has enabled us to welcome these families in their time of need.

“Colchester has an extensive history of supporting displaced groups following persecution, so I am glad we are leading the way with our offer of assistance.”

On arrival the refugees’ needs will be assessed and welcome packs provided introducing them to Essex, and providing information on how to access services.

Mr Finch added: “In Colchester there is strong support, and this support network will be vital as clearly this is going to be a cultural and emotional shock for the families who arrive.

“We will be continuing to work closely with partners to ensure the new arrivals are provided with the ongoing support they will need in the weeks, months and years to come. Because of this it is more important than ever the Government commits to fully funding the refugees’ stay, and we will be continuing to strongly press this case at the highest level.”

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