Syrian families to spend first Christmas in safety

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13 Dec 2016

Families who were forced to flee the brutal Syrian conflict will be spending their first Christmases in safety in Hertfordshire.

So far 62 people have arrived in Hertfordshire as part of the Government’s Syrian Vulnerable Person’s Relocation (SVPR) scheme.

Through the programme, refugees are brought directly from countries neighbouring Syria to Britain. Refugees are selected for resettlement because they are particularly vulnerable, with some having medical needs and others having survived torture. Refugees are resettled with their families and homes are found for them in privately rented properties.

The Refugee Council has been working closely with local councils and Herts Welcomes Syrian Families to ensure that the refugee families who’ve arrived so far are able to access all of the services and support they need to begin recovering from their experiences and to start rebuilding their lives.

Refugee Council Resettlement Manager Hannah Picking said: "It’s absolutely fantastic that Syrian families arriving in Hertfordshire have been so warmly welcomed.

"These are people who’ve been to hell and back; they’ve been forced from their homes and many of them have lost loved ones. Last Christmas, their futures looked very bleak. This Christmas, the outlook couldn’t be more different.

"It’s hard to describe the difference being resettled in Hertfordshire makes to these families. At last, they have somewhere safe to sleep, their children are able to go to school and they are able to begin rebuilding their shattered lives. Quite simply, Hertfordshire has given these families the hope of a safer, brighter future.”

Catherine Henderson, from local volunteer group Herts Welcomes Syrian Families has been extending a warm welcome to the new arrivals. Catherine said: "There is so much goodwill in Hertfordshire towards the Syrian families we have been overwhelmed by the generosity of members of the public, both through fund raising and donations of items such as bicycles and pushchairs. Herts Welcomes Syrian Families is looking forward to organising some trips and visits with the families over the coming year - we will see where they want to go and arrange some outings, hopefully to London, and maybe the seaside when the weather warms up.”

Jamal*, Amira and their two young children Rama, 5, and Ali, 1, are just one of the families to have benefited from being resettled in Hertfordshire.

Jamal and Amira fled Syria at the beginning of the conflict because they no longer felt safe there.

Amira said: "A lot of my relatives died: my granddad and his brothers and my uncle all died right at the beginning of the cross fire. There were kidnappings in the streets; chaos; no security. It was unliveable, unbearable. That’s when we decided to flee Aleppo to go to Lebanon.”

The couple struggled to survive in Lebanon, especially after the births of their two children. Eventually the family were selected to be resettled in the UK and arrived in Hertfordshire earlier this year.

The family have been settling well into their new lives in safety, learning new words in English every day and with Rama having already made lots of friends at school.

Jamal, who hopes to become an electrician in the future said:  "I sometimes I feel like I’m in a dream that we arrived here and Rama is so settled in school. Our main aspiration is for our kids to get educated and for us both to learn the language and finish our education.”

Amira and Jamal are extremely grateful for the warm welcome the family have received. Amira said: "It’s mainly the treatment we appreciate here; we are treated with kindness, politeness, and people smile at us everywhere. I’m so glad my children will grow up here because they will learn how people treat others humanely.”

Jamal added: "Last winter our lives were so different and I worried every day about the future. This year we're safe here in Hertfordshire and we've been made to feel so welcome. My children will now have the chance to grow up somewhere safe where they can go to school and just be children again."

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