To consider a paper to inform members of preparations
a) At the request of members of the Communities Scrutiny Committee, a report was submitted to the Cabinet Member for Housing, outlining the Council's arrangements to respond to the Syrian Refugee crisis. It was briefly noted that Gwynedd was required to accept up to 40 people over a period of 4 and a half years with the intention of accepting 10 in the first instance to learn from the process.
It was highlighted that Gwynedd had received support from the beginning and was by now a part of Wedd2. With high numbers of people on waiting lists for social housing, the refugees would receive properties within the private sector and would receive full humanitarian protection for 5 years with the right to employment and benefits. Confirmation had been received from the Home Office that a financial package was available to extend support and to facilitate integration in the community, and that this financial commitment (from the Westminster Government) would last for a period of five years.
In terms of timetable, it was reported that six authorities were considering the possibility of agreeing on one date to receive the refugees and were in the process of submitting an outline of the available accommodation to the Home Office. In the meantime, the Home Office would process the applications and would undertake thorough assessments to respond to what was available.
A tribute was paid to the residents and voluntary organisations of Gwynedd for their special campaigns to support refugees and it was noted that there was an intention to hold discussions with voluntary organisations in order to collaborate and to ensure the best use of resources and expertise. There would also be a proposal to contact with four other authorities from Wales who had already received refugees in order to learn and understand some practical elements.
b) In response to a question regarding the 'five year period' of support, it was noted that integrating the refugees in society was the main objective and that the individuals had the right to return or stay after the period. A financial resource would be available for five years, but the hope was that the individuals would have made a full contribution to society by then. It was noted that it was likely that these would mostly be families.
c) In response to a question regarding the type of resource which was offered by the Government, it was noted that health and child education were being addressed and that benefits were prioritised above this. It would be necessary to be careful and watchful of the need to work within the financial package and the priority at present was suitable accommodation. It was added that initial discussions had been held with Health. It was noted that discussions with colleges and communication provisions had occurred.
d) In further response to a question regarding considering sharing the refugees across Gwynedd rather then locating the refugees in the north of the County, it was noted that the first 10 refugees would be likely to be located in the north, but that other areas of the county would be considered. It was noted that the experience was being evaluated with consideration being given to identifying opportunities for education, employment and a Syrian community.
RESOLVED: To express thanks for the report, noting that the Committee
• Agrees and accepts the recommendation to welcome refugees to Gwynedd
• Supportive of the thorough preparations being undertaken
• Highlight the need to prepare the local community for accepting refugees to ensure integration into local society
• Welcome the use of private housing so that there would be no impact on social housing lists.