North Yorkshire provides welcome place of refuge for families from war-torn countries

The politician charged with bolstering North Yorkshire’s communities has spoken of his pride that 90 per cent of refugee families from war-torn countries such as Syria have remained in the county as the final family in a programme to help Afghan people is settled this month.

North Yorkshire County Council’s executive member for stronger communities, Cllr David Chance, said the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy scheme, which was announced in 2020, had seen 122 people, or 25 families, many of whom provided support to the UK’s Armed Forces in the war-torn county, permanently resettled in North Yorkshire.

The number of Afghans who have been resettled in the county, by the county council in partnership with the county’s seven borough and district councils, has been based on the size of North Yorkshire’s population.

Meanwhile, the county council in partnership with a range of agencies is continuing to provide support to the Afghan refugee families temporarily residing in two bridging accommodation hotels in North Yorkshire.

David Chance, North Yorkshire County Council’s executive member for stronger communities.

Cllr Chance said overall there had been more than 500 arrivals since both hotels were first used for the scheme.

He said: “The pace of moving families out of the hotels into permanent accommodation remains relatively slow and nationally there are about 10,000 Afghans in bridging accommodation.”

Employers in the county are continuing to express interest in supporting the Afghan families, Cllr Chance said, and this has created a positive effect for earlier refugee arrivals in the county.

He said there have also been more enquiries relating to Ukrainian migrants and these are being logged for future discussions.

However, following a commitment made by North Yorkshire’s local authorities in 2019, refugees under the United Kingdom Resettlement Scheme (UKRS) , a more general scheme to resettle refugees, a further 89 people have been resettled in the county.

Cllr Chance said Syrian refugees remained the main nationality coming to the county on the UKRS scheme, which aims to have resettled 200 people in North Yorkshire by March 2024.

He said: “The pace of resettlement has now picked up after a delayed start due to the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 resulting in no arrivals.”

While all of the refugees resettled in the county under initiatives such as the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme have either ended their five-year support period or are in their fifth year, the proportion of those families staying in the county is in the region of 90 per cent.

Cllr Chance said: “It’s very pleasing that they want to stay in North Yorkshire. Initially when they were first coming over they all wanted to be in London, because that’s where the metropolis was and where they thought the jobs would be.

“North Yorkshire residents have really stepped up to the plate with this and with the Ukrainian evacuees as well.

"There are some super support groups for them.”