Falkirk steps up support for refugees and calls for more UK Government resource

Asylum seekers and refugees will continue to be made welcome in Falkirk – but the UK Government must ensure that the council has the resources it needs to support them.

By Kirsty Paterson, Local Democracy Reporting Service
Thursday, 2nd December 2021, 7:27 am

That was the message from the leader of Falkirk Council at its executive on Tuesday, when councillors agreed that two council officers who have been supporting refugees should be given permanent posts.

One of the resettlement officers has been on a temporary contract for four years and councillors agreed that the staff were doing excellent work and deserved more stability.

The council heard that staffing costs for the resettlement scheme – fully funded by the Home Office – would be £87,000 every year should the government grant cease.

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Activist's and locals light candles and hold placards protesting against the treatment of refugees in response to the death of at least 27 people who drowned trying to reach the UK (Pic: Kiran Ridley/Getty Images)

Council leader Cecil Meiklejohn said it is vital that the Home Office retains its financial support to help people rebuild their lives after escaping conflict and trauma.

She said: “I’m pleased that Falkirk has been able to play its part in the re-settlement of refugees and asylum seekers, considering the atrocities and the way they have been treated in their own countries and the trauma they have been through.

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“That has demonstrated just how challenging it has been for them living their lives, often having to leave family behind.

A member of the UK Border Force helps migrants on a beach in Dungeness on the south-east coast of England (Pic: Ben Stansall/AFP via Getty Images)

“It’s the right thing to do, to continue to offer safe havens for those fleeing violence, abuse and persecution.”

“We do have to make sure, though, that we send a clear message back to the Home Office that it needs to be properly funded – that we need the correct support to do our absolute best to allow these people to recover, settle and rebuild their lives.”

She suggested that the council should write to the Home Office, reiterating our support for the resettlement of refugees and the asylum seekers process but said they should “put a marker down that it needs to be properly funded in order to do so.”

Falkirk has resettled 13 families – in total 28 adults and 33 children – so far through the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme.

They are given up to five years of support and encouraged to get an education, find work and settle into their communities.

According to the report, two are now in full-time employment, five in part-time employment and 14 are attending Forth Valley College.

One person has successfully completed an access course at Stirling University, another has a place at Strathclyde University, while several have volunteered with local charities.

The council is now committed to resettling 15 people in 2021 to 2022.

Recently, Falkirk Council expressed concerns that the Home Office had placed 50 asylum seekers in a local hotel in Falkirk without proper consultation.

At the time, councillor Meiklejohn said: “We have concerns about the suitability of accommodating asylum seekers in hotels, the site of the hotel chosen and the lack of any meaningful consultation by the Home Office with the council or any of the other public bodies impacted by their decision.

“However, we will work with the Home Office and the company managing the placements on their behalf to provide relevant supports to the people placed in the hotel.

"Falkirk has a proud tradition of accepting refugees and values the contribution that they have brought to the local area.”

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