Local Muslims vital to helping Syrian refugees settle in Derry

Aisha, 6, and Sara, 4, sit inside a tent in an informal settlement for Syrian refugees in north Bekaa Valley in Lebanon on September 10 2015.
Aisha, 6, and Sara, 4, sit inside a tent in an informal settlement for Syrian refugees in north Bekaa Valley in Lebanon on September 10 2015.
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A Kenyan refugee living in Derry believes the local Muslim community will be vital to the re-settlement of Syrian refugees in the city.

Lilian Seenoi arrived in 2010 with her young son Brian. Ms. Seenoi, who is the Executive Director of the North West Migrants Forum in William Street, also said Derry City and Strabane District Council (DCSDC) is “ready” to receive the Syrian refugees into the local community.

“I hope Derry will make use of the Muslim community we already have here and migrants who have migrated here, to help Syrian refugees feel at home,” said Ms. Seenoi.

Earlier this week, a group of Syrian refugees arrived in Northern Ireland. The group of 51 men, women and children came from a refugee camp in Lebanon managed by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). A two-week old baby and several children under the age of five were among the group of refugees.

“I think DCSDC is ready to receive Syrian refugees in the New Year,” said Ms. Seenoi.

“However, it is essential that resources are made available to provide practical support for Syrian refugees when they come. I know there is a lot that is being done in preparation by Department for Social Department (DSD) and the DCSDC Civic Action For Refugees but I am not sure if essential things like warm clothes, toiletries, friendly faces, people who understand their culture, speak their language and have an idea what they are going through, have been approached to assist in the resettlement,” she added.

Ms. Seenoi said it was important that those tasked with welcoming the refugees to Derry became familiar with Syrian culture and language.

“I think if we are to make Derry a warm place for the Syrians coming here, we need to ensure that those involved in welcoming them to the city when they arrive fully understand their culture, speak their language and are available 24/7 - for at least the first few months,” she said.

“ When I arrived in Derry I needed someone who I could relate to, someone who even though they did not speak my language, understood where I came from and had a similar story as mine.

“I hope Derry will make use of the Muslim community we already have here and migrants who have migrated here to help Syrian refugees feel at home.”

Last month it was revealed that a group of Syrian refugees are due to arrive in Derry in early 2016.