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Craven prepares to welcome Syrian refugee families

Craven District Council is set to become a pilot authority for the resettlement of Syrian refugees in North Yorkshire.

Members of the council's policy committee have agreed the council should commit to accepting a maximum of 25 Syrian refugees over the next five years, which are expected to be in family groups rather than single people.

The move follows the UK Government's commitment to accepting up to 20,000 Syrian refugees into the United Kingdom from refugee camps in countries neighbouring Syria.

Craven, along with one or two neighbouring partners, has been proposed as authorities for the initial pilot in North Yorkshire, with North Yorkshire County Council acting as the lead authority.

Refugees could now begin to arrive in summer 2016, provided suitable accommodation and support services are in place.

Paul Ellis, director of services at Craven District Council, said: "We want to play our part in the humanitarian response to the plight of the Syrian refugees.

"The council had already agreed in principle to do our bit to help these refugee families who are in dire need of assistance. Now that Government funding is in place, North Yorkshire County Council and the district councils are able to move forward with these plans.

"It is very important that this resettlement scheme is handled carefully. We will be proactive in fostering good relations between the refugees and the existing community and help them to positively integrate."

The district council has identified Skipton and South Craven as the best areas for refugees to settle, as they have the largest housing stock, available school places, a wide range of services and easy access to Bradford where there is an existing Syrian refugee community and specialist services. The council's intention is to source accommodation in the private sector and it will shortly be contacting private landlords and lettings agents to discuss the scheme in more detail.

Funding for setting up and operating the scheme is being covered by a grant from the Home Office.

Refugees will be granted a five-year humanitarian protection visa before they enter the UK and have the same rights as UK citizens to education, employment, health care and public funds. Unaccompanied children will not be included.

The council's chief executive and director of services will now work with North Yorkshire County Council, the other North Yorkshire district councils, Migration Yorkshire, lettings agents and private landlords to implement the resettlement scheme.