Southend could take in another 30 refugees

Up to 30 people displaced by unrest in their own countries could find a new home in Southend under resettlement plans.

Southend Council has confirmed it is looking to finalise paperwork with the United Nations (UN) to almost double the number of refugees being resettled in the town.

They will come to the borough through the Government’s Vulnerable Person Resettlement Scheme, which gives authorities funding to resettle children who have arrived in the country without a parent, or people who have survived torture and exploitation among other things.

The extra 30 refugees in Southend will push the number being given council support to 69.

Councillor Ian Gilbert, leader of the council, said: “Our Children’s Services teams work tirelessly to safeguard the unaccompanied child refugees who have come to the UK.

“The children that have been supported by Southend since 2016, have come mainly from the council’s Children’s Services work with Eastern Region Local Authorities and we are currently working with 39 children or young adults.

“In addition, during 2016 we settled nine people from two different families and have continued to support them, which has been made possible by receiving £174,130 in grants from Central Government.

“Looking forward, cabinet agreed to extend the Vulnerable Person Resettlement Scheme and bring in an additional 30 refugees into the borough, which requires the council to submit an application to the United Nations Human Rights Council by the end of 2019.

“Until this process is complete and we know exact numbers plans, including housing options, will remain under review.

“These refugees will be funded by Central Government.”

The resettlement programme was launched in 2015 with a focus on Syria but from 2020 it will be expanded and relabelled as the Global Resettlement Scheme, taking refugees in from beyond the Middle East and North Africa when lives are at risk.

Local authorities are being asked to volunteer to take part in the programme but when Mr Gilbert was questioned about Southend’s involvement, he said: “The council hasn’t yet made a decision about the Global Resettlement Scheme”.

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Steve Shaw

Local Democracy Reporter