Fifty-one Syrian refugees will arrive in Derry early next week, it has been confirmed.
In a special press briefing in Derry, the Department for Social Development (D.S.D.), the Office of First Minister and Deputy First Minister (O.F.M.D.F.M.) and the Red Cross announced that the 57 Syrian nationals will arrive in the North of Ireland from Turkey on Thursday evening.
The group comprises of 14 families, totalling 57 people and will be the second group to settle in the North after the first group of refugees arrived here in December.
All but one of the 14 families will be settled in Derry’s city side. The remaining family of six require wheelchair access and will be settled in Belfast.
There will be 20 children, of which 15 are of school age, in the group.
Some of the adults who will arrive in Derry have university degrees.
The youngest person in the group is a two year-old child and the oldest is a 57 year-old man.
A Support Officer will be assigned to each family by either Barnardo’s or Extern.
The Home Office provide funding of at least £11,120 per refugee to cover the first year costs of which £8,520 provides for the resettlement costs in the first year with the remainder going towards education etc. This funding is not given to the individuals – this is allocated to O.F.M.D.F.M. from the Home Office which is then managed by D.S.D. who allocated the required amounts to those organisations who are involved in the resettlement programme.
The funding is provided by the Home Office which means there is no impact to the North’s public purse.
The group are all Muslims and are a mixture of Arabs, Kurds and Circassians.
Some of the people in the group have been injured and have lost loved ones in the ongoing conflict in Syria.
The people requiring wheelchair access have pre-existing conditions.
The refugees will spend up to five days in a specially designed welcome centre in Belfast before moving into temporary accommodation secured for them by the Northern Ireland Housing Executive (N.I.H.E.). The N.I.H.E. has sourced the accommodation in the private rented sector.
While in temporary accommodation, housing options will be explored and the refugees will be assisted with health and education requirements they may have.
It is expected that after a period of up to six months, the refugees will move into permanent accommodation.
The refugees will spend the first few days in the North undergoing medical checks and learning about issues such as currency, what side of the road motorists drive on, the Troubles and how public services work etc.
The group will also be briefed on law and order by the P.S.N.I. and on how to apply for benefits by the Social Security Agency (S.S.A.).
The vast majority of Syrian refugees who will be settled in Derry have limited or no English language skills.
All of the Syrian refugees coming to Derry will be settled here under the U.K. government’s Vulnerable Persons’ Relocation Scheme. All will have gone through a vigorous two stage security screening process carried out by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (U.N.H.C.R.) and the Home Office.
The Home Office works closely with the U.N.H.C.R., which has its own robust identification processes in place. This includes the taking of biometrics (photographs and fingerprints), documentary evidence and interviews with the refugees.
All of the refugees settling in the North are not permitted to travel into the South without applying to the Home Office for the correct travel documents.
The refugees are permitted to remain in the U.K. for five years. At the end of this five year period they are then offered the chance to remain here permanently or return to Syria. According to statistics, more than 80 per cent of refugees who settle in the U.K. remain here after five years.
All of the refugees brought into the U.K. under the Vulnerable Persons’ Scheme are taken from refugee camps managed by the U.N.H.C.R. in countries bordering Syria.