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Monklands Accept 41 Syrians
Monklands is to house 41 refugees fleeing the civil war in Syria who are due to arrive in Airdrie and Coatbridge late next month.
The two towns were selected to receive the first 12 family groups coming to North Lanarkshire based on the availability of suitable homes and school places.
The refugees, some of whom were “subject to torture and violence” before fleeing their home nation, will be arriving from camps and temporary accommodation in Lebanon and Turkey.
Duncan Mackay, North Lanarkshire’s executive director of housing and social work services, said: "It’s a moral imperative that we do this. It would be completely inappropriate if the council didn’t respond to what is the biggest humanitarian crisis since the Second World War."
The announcement was welcomed by Gareth Bayley, the UK’s special representative for Syria, who is from Plains. He said: "This news makes me proud to be an Airdrieonian."
North Lanarkshire is among the “first tranche” of Scottish councils to take in refugees from the UK-wide Syrian vulnerable persons’ relocation scheme, operated by the Home Office working alongside the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees."
Costs of the resettlement programme, including education and health services, are being funded by the Home Office in the first year.
Mr Mackay said: "Many of the individuals have been subject to torture and violence, really horrific stuff, and some of the children have witnessed their parents being beaten.
"They’ve lived in areas targeted by raids and bombings and have lost family members and livelihoods. This will be a place of sanctuary. We’d been approached by concerned communities – one of the first was a faith group in Airdrie – asking for the council to play its part in supporting these people in desperate need. North Lanarkshire has a long history of supporting vulnerable and disadvantaged people, and there are no more disadvantaged people than those who have lost everything in Syria.
"We have a moral duty to support them, and community support will be welcome – people in Airdrie and Coatbridge can be a huge help."
Special representative Mr Bayley said: "Airdrie and Coatbridge have a proud tradition of welcoming people to the community.
"These Syrians are among the most in need, including women and children at risk, and survivors of torture and violence. I know they will be determined to build a better future for themselves and the communities who welcome them.
"The UK government works closely with local authorities and civil society to ensure the newcomers are integrated sensitively into local communities, and Monklands will be no exception."
The resettlement project has cross-party backing from North Lanarkshire councillors, who had unanimously agreed to take action to support those affected by the crisis which has displaced 7.6 million people and resulted in nearly 3.9 million leaving Syria.
Housing and social work vice-convener Peter Sullivan said: "I think it’s correct that we should take care of people from other nations escaping their own countries because of war, poverty and starvation.
"I hope these people will become a boon to the area, like many others from different nations who’ve come here, and that the community will be welcoming.
"I don’t think the number of refugees being taken in by Britain is particularly big. We should all take an equal share."
Fellow Airdrie Central councillor David Stocks, the SNP group leader, agreed: "You see some of these terrible visions on TV and know we have to do something – how could you think otherwise?
"I’m certainly in support of this action, and the working group is keeping all the councillors up to date as everything progresses."
North Lanarkshire officials are currently working with NHS Lanarkshire, emergency services, Voluntary Action North Lanarkshire, the Department for Work and Pensions, plus local faith and community groups to prepare for the Syrian families’ arrival in Monklands.
The council area is expected to welcome a total of 120 Syrian refugees by 2020.
The Scottish Government committed to taking 2000 of the Westminster government’s promised total of 20,000 refugees in that period, and every council in Scotland is participating in the resettlement scheme.