South Ayrshire Council has pledged its support for the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme and agreed to work with partner agencies to develop a comprehensive and holistic approach to supporting families relocating to South Ayrshire.
All 30 Councillors took the unanimous decision to consider the level of accommodation and support that can be provided within South Ayrshire, taking account of the potential housing, health, social and educational needs of vulnerable Syrian refugees escaping the horrors within their own country.
The Council will now work closely with a number of local organisations who have expressed an interest in supporting the Syrians' plight and who will play a pivotal role in ensuring the successful integration of refugees within local communities.
The outcome of that work will determine the maximum number of Syrian families who could be supported in South Ayrshire.
The Council already has a successful track record of welcoming and supporting 16 Afghan families – more than any other local authority in Scotland – through a similar programme over the past year. That experience, and the lessons learned, will be key in shaping the support programme for Syrian families.
Councillor Bill McIntosh, Leader of South Ayrshire Council, said: "We can only imagine the difficulties the people of Syria are facing on a daily basis and we will certainly do everything we can to help them achieve the safety and security they need. It's important that we don't jump in with both feet, but take the time to ensure we have the appropriate support ready and available to deliver the maximum impact – whether that's in the form of housing, health and social care, or education. That holistic approach will make a real difference and ensure that we really do make Syrian families feel at home here in South Ayrshire."
Councillor John McDowall, Depute Leader of the Council and Leader of the Labour Group, added: "Our experience with Afghan families gives us some great building blocks to work with and will be invaluable in shaping not just our own response to the Syrian crisis, but will be very useful to other Councils who will be shaping this kind of support for the first time. Our motto is 'ne'er forget the people' and it's a privilege to turn that commitment into something tangible for families who have nothing and who have experienced real trauma. South Ayrshire will certainly do them proud."
Councillor Allan Dorans, Leader of the SNP Group, said: "The situation in Syria is simply heart-breaking and is the greatest humanitarian crisis of our lifetime. More than four million refugees have fled the country and we have a moral duty to hold out the hand of friendship and welcome these people – who have witnessed unspeakable horrors – to our shores. I look forward to hearing how our support, and that of our colleagues in other organisations, will take shape to offer new lives for affected families."
Independent Councillors Alec Clark and Brian Connolly concluded: "South Ayrshire has a proud history of providing a warm welcome to people from across the world. That has helped our Afghan neighbours become an important part of our local communities and we will do exactly the same for those families from Syria. We've all been moved by the images and stories of those escaping Syria and, with our partners, we will do everything we can to ensure the success of a support programme – and a fresh start – for Syrian refugees in South Ayrshire."
A further report outlining the support that will be made available for Syrian refugees will be presented to South Ayrshire Councillors before the end of January 2016.