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We gave safe sanctuary to Syrian family fleeing conflict

This story shows how a London community came together to welcome its first refugee family under the Community Sponsorship scheme.

Fleeing conflict in Syria, the family of five had lost their home and been identified by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) as being particularly vulnerable and in need of resettlement to the UK.

Now, they will have the opportunity to rebuild their lives in London, supported by The Salvation Army and its community.

We have been leading momentum, along with a number of other groups, in supporting the Government’s pledge to resettle Syrian refugees through its Community Sponsorship scheme.

Major Nick Coke, our Refugee Coordinator, said: “It has been months in the making – preparing accommodation, looking at schools, identifying access to appropriate medical support and language tuition – but we have never lost sight of our motivation to help resettle a family under this scheme.

“In November last year we assisted the Home Office in reuniting 44 unaccompanied refugee children from the Calais 'Jungle' with their extended families in Britain. It was one of the most powerful experiences of my life as a Salvation Army officer - watching young people the same age as my son find sanctuary and unconditional welcome. A day has not passed when I haven't thought of the thousands still waiting to reach safety.

“The Government’s Community Sponsorship scheme empowers us as citizens to work together to do something practical to help refugees. Everyone from the Home Office to our local authority has been instrumental in enabling our community to make this happen. People have been so warm and enthusiastic; the wife of the owner of a local restaurant is Syrian and she prepared a meal for when the family arrived and a local English language charity is supporting us with tuition. Members of our congregation and their friends have been involved in everything from getting the accommodation’s keys cut and donating furniture to cleaning the house and collecting toys ready for the children. It has been a joy to make community connections that we didn’t previously have. I’m very proud of the strength of this London community.”

About the Community Sponsorship scheme

The Government’s Community Sponsorship scheme aims to enable community groups to be involved in the protection of vulnerable refugees fleeing war and conflict by supporting their resettlement. A similar scheme in Canada has resettled more than 280,000 people since the 1970s and is widely deemed a success. A recent report released by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada found that privately supported refugees (i.e. those welcomed by community sponsorship) tended to integrate far better into society, having higher incidence of employment, higher earnings and lower reliance on social assistance compared with Government assisted refugees that do not have that community network*.

As part of the resettlement, Nick Coke, who is leading his community in this scheme is responsible for the family the minute they arrived into the UK. Formal support for the family will last for a year, with the exception of housing, for which the responsibility lasts for two years.