Syrian refugee families who fled the civil war in their country have been formally welcomed to Warwick district as part of a wider resettlement scheme across Warwickshire and the UK.
The five families, four of whom have been settling in the district over the past 16 months, attended a reception at Leamington Town Hall yesterday which was hosted hosted by the volunteer group ‘Welcome Here Leamington Spa and Warwick’, who have worked extensively with the five families in Leamington, and Warwick District Council chairman Cllr Alan Boad.
It was an opportunity for the group of 21 Syrians to hear a little bit more about the area and also share, in their own words, their gratitude for the opportunity of a new start in the UK.
Penelope Halpin speaking on behalf of Welcome Here Leamington Spa and Warwick, which is made up of about 20 volunteers, said: “We have come together to support and provide a welcome to the five Syrian families who have recently come to live in the town.
“These families have all left extremely difficult situations in their home country, and are very grateful for the safety in which they can now bring up their children, and send them to school.
“They often say how friendly everyone has been to them since they have arrived and they are so grateful for that.
“The children, of course, are all making great progress at school and say how appreciative they are of the chance to access education.
“Welcome Here has also been seeking opportunities for the adults to find volunteering options in the town - two of them are now helping at community centres, one at a community farm, one in a film company, and one in a charity shop.
“In this way, they have further opportunities to practise their English, to meet other people in the community, and to develop skills as a route into work.
“Three of the adults have excellent catering skills, a chef, a pastry cook and one a baker.
“Their dream is that in the future they will be able to open a Syrian restaurant in Leamington.
“Similar projects have been successful elsewhere in the UK.
“I hope that we can help them realise their dream here too.
All of the 31 families given sanctuary in Warwickshire are amongst those who have suffered the most following the humanitarian disaster in Syria since civil war erupted in 2011.
Many have been displaced from their homes or had their homes and livelihoods destroyed in the subsequent conflicts that have ravaged the country they once called home.
Within the last month the situation has deteriorated further in Syria leading to humanitarian agencies describing it as ‘beyond imagination’.
The families have arrived as part of the Government’s scheme to resettle 20,000 people from United Nations refugee camps.