Hull provides safe haven for Congolese refugees - Refugee Council
March 29, 2006

Hull provides safe haven for Congolese refugees

Hull has welcomed a small group of refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo who will make their home in the city as part of the Government’s Gateway Protection Programme. The scheme, a partnership between the Home Office and the United Nations High Commission for refugees (UNHCR), enables particularly vulnerable refugees to be resettled in the UK, many of whom have lived in refugee camps for several years.

A total of 12 families will live in Hull as part of the scheme, which is funded for a year by the Home Office and supported by the Refugee Council.

Hull City Council decided to take part in the programme to accept the refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo who are currently living in UNHCR camps in Zambia. They have been selected for resettlement by the UNHCR, being at risk from torture, persecution, rape and even death.

All the refugees have undergone Home Office security and health screening and have already taken part in a cultural orientation exercise to help them become accustomed to life in the UK. They will also be encouraged to take English lessons.

Councillor Ken Branson, Leader of Hull City Council, said:

“The city has a proud history of helping small numbers of refugees, from countries such as Iraq and Zimbabwe, find a save haven and we are pleased to offer the hand of help again.

“These people have been through terrible life experiences that many of us would feel unimaginable and would agree that no one should have to endure.

“We will be working closely with the Home Office and the Refugee Council on the programme and I am sure the people of Hull will offer a warm welcome.”

Councillor Kath Lavery, the Council’s Equalities Champion, said:

“The refugees are eligible to work immediately and the children will be attending local schools. We want the refugees to make an important contribution to society from day one and I’m sure this is something in which the good people of Hull will unreservedly agree.”

Charlotte Cooke, Yorkshire and Humberside Manager, Refugee Council, said:

“The Refugee Council is proud to play a part in the resettlement programme in Hull. The programme so far has been extremely successful in other parts of the country where it has been introduced.

“In our experience, refugees want to work to support their children and I have no doubt the same will apply to the Congolese families coming to Hull.

“There will be a period of adjustment because the difference in lifestyles is so huge but I am sure that they will make a valuable contribution to Hull’s cultural and social life.”

Channel 4’s coverage highlighted the Government’s target to bring 500 refugees in a year through Gateway, a target which is currently not being achieved due to lack of sign up by local authorities.

Alistair Griggs, Refugee Council Director of Operations said:

“The Refugee Council has been helping to promote and implement the Gateway Protection programme for the last 3 years and we are delighted to see more local authorities signing up.

We’ve now been involved with three of the first six groups arriving in the UK, and will shortly run the first inter agency training event on re-settlement, an opportunity for our staff and staff in local authorities, health, education, refugee charities and other voluntary sector agencies to share experiences and expertise.

We hope our continued work in promoting Gateway to local authorities and the inspiring success of the existing programmes will lead to an increase in the number of local authorities welcoming gateway refugees.”