The Salvation Army has welcomed its first refugee family under the Community Sponsorship scheme recently introduced by the Government. Fleeing conflict in Syria, the family 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. Welcomed under the scheme they will now have the opportunity to rebuild their lives in London, supported by The Salvation Army and its community.
The church and charity has 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. Merton Council is the first London borough to help welcome a refugee family as part of the scheme.
Major Nick Coke, the Refugee Coordinator for The Salvation Army, 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.”
Merton Council’s Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, Councillor Katy Neep, said: “We are proud to be the first London borough to welcome a refugee family as part of the Community Sponsorship scheme. Here in Merton we believe it is right to support children and families fleeing conflict and war and it is a great way for us to continue this commitment.
“The council is working closely with our partners to provide the support the family needs and the community is rallying round to help the family settle into the borough.”
The Immigration Minister Robert Goodwill said: “The response of the British public to the refugee crisis has been one of overwhelming generosity and many have been moved to make kind offers of assistance.
"The Community Sponsorship scheme – part of our commitment to resettle 20,000 Syrian refugees by 2020 - is empowering community groups to take on the challenging but rewarding role of welcoming and supporting a vulnerable refugee family in the UK.
“I am delighted that we are partnering with the Salvation Army in this case and I wholeheartedly encourage community groups across the country who feel they can offer their support to apply to the scheme.”
Government Minister for Faith and Integration, Lord Bourne, said:
“At the heart of the Community Sponsorship Programme is community-led integration. It helps refugee families to rebuild their lives free from conflict and fear in a welcoming community, supporting them every step of the way to become part of British society.”
The 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 over 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 of 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 a year, with the exception of housing, for which the responsibility lasts for two years.
For more information about the Community Sponsorship scheme visit the Home Office’s web page: