Council calls for residents to welcome Syrian refugees who have escaped violence and torture to come to Mansfield

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Bosses at Mansfield District Council are asking residents to ‘be welcoming’ to four families which have been brought to the town after escaping war and extremism in Syria.

The sixteen people, who arrived in town last week, have experienced violence and torture in their home country, and came to the UK from a refugee camp in Jordan.

They came to Mansfield as part of the Government’s pledge to offer humanitarian protection to those wanting to escape the barbaric regime of Islamic State in the Middle East.

A total of 81 people from 18 families arrived in Nottinghamshire earlier in December, with the remainder being resettled in other parts of the county.

The families have been homed in Mansfield because the authority was able to find places for them to stay before Christmas, while others are still without permanent accommodation.

Hayley Barsby, head of housing services at the council, said: “The urgency to get these families into the UK and homes is because they were all living in refugee camps, the winter has arrived and it’s getting colder. A refugee camp in the winter is a very challenging environment to survive in.

“The families that we have helped didn’t have the means, either financially or because of medical conditions or health issues, to make the journey through Europe themselves.

“They are here now but they are really out of their comfort zone and they need everyone’s support because of what they have all been through in their home country.

“They are vulnerable and they need humanitarian support until they are in a position to return home.

“Sadly, some people do view them as economic migrants and they are not. They are suffering because many have been forced to flee and leave family members behind, and in many cases they do not know if those relatives are safe and well.

“These families are now getting used to their surroundings and we are working with them to provide them with the support they need.

“We would really like people to welcome them. They are extremely grateful to be here and staff here have been very humbled.

“They’re not demanding a lot - their principal need at the moment is to be safe.”

With funding directly from the Home Office, they will receive humanitarian protection for the next five years.

The long-term aim is to return the families to Syria once the conflict is over.

John Robinson, chief executive of Gedling Borough Council, has been leading the preparations for bringing the Syrians to Nottinghamshire.

He said: “Nottinghamshire has a proud history of supporting the most vulnerable in society.

“The many offers of support already received is an indication of the generosity and warm welcome that will be offered.”

However, the news of their arrival has not been welcomed by everyone, with a number of people raising concerns on social media - concerns backed by Councillor Nick Bennett, Mansfield Independent Forum member for Kingsway ward.

During a recent council meeting, he was the only member who abstained from voting to offer help to refugees in Mansfield, with the rest voting in favour.

He said: “If you speak out against this you are automatically classed as a racist, but a lot of people have contacted me with genuine concerns.

“I feel sorry for these people and it’s not a case of not wanting immigrants, but it won’t solve the problems in Syria.”