St John the Baptist Parish Church

Where a warm welcome awaits you


Syrian Refugees settling in the Wokingham District

In December a meeting of Wokingham District Council was chaired by Simon Price  and subsequently addressed by: Daniel Hobbs from the Home Office, Deputy Head of the Government’s Resettlement Programme; Ray Millard, the partnership manager S.E. Strategic Partnership for Migration; Nick Hagbourne – Reading Refugee Support Group; and Zaimal Koroma – Reading Red Cross.  They described their experiences in Reading. The Government has pledged to take in 20,000 refugees from the United Camps in Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan. Life there is very basic although the Government has already spent billions in aid there.

Of the 20,000 promised, the first 200 came in September. It was expected that 1,000 would be resettled before Christmas. Daniel Hobbs is in charge of this resettlement programme together with the help of “a team made up of local government representatives”. Of the numbers seeking resettlement there were two levels of screening including medical screening done, first in the camps and again on reaching the U.K .but those selected would match up to the following criteria: women with children on their on their own; survivors of torture; those with particular medical needs; those with problems of sexual identity.

Each local authority is being asked to house five families. Five-bedroomed houses are being sought for which the rent and maintenance would be paid over a five-year period. Support from the Overseas Development Aid would be provided. After five years the resettled family can return or apply for resettlement. A case worker and translator would accompany each party of refugees. For practical reasons the authority is hoping to find accommodation within reasonable distance of work which does present difficulties. Bracknell we were told has 1,000 on its waiting list for houses. Reading has similar problems. It is probable that Wokingham’s refugees will probably be placed in the Woodley/Earley area.

A steering committee has been set up. Since so many contributed to the church collection sent to the Red Cross for the Syrian Refugees and  Crowthorne is unlikely to provide suitable housing, members of our  congregation  may want to help further. Nick Hayborne of the Reading Support Group told us that Reading was running short of money. Many would like to have more information about how the scheme was progressing. Simon Price at Wokingham Town Hall would be delighted to hear from you.

My thanks to David Butler for his help in drafting this report and for the following information supplied.

Hilary Burton

The U.K. is the second largest bilateral donor to the Syrian Crisis. The Prime minister announced a further £100 million on the 4th September and an additional  £115 million pounds at an emergency meeting of the European Council on the 23rd September. This takes our total contribution to £1.12 billion since 2012 to help vulnerable people in Syria and refugees in the region. Further aid has been allocated to support local capacity and build larger team stability in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt.