Volunteers in Islington are appealing for private landlords with empty properties to use them to house two more Syrian refugee families.
The Islington Refugee Welcome group has found privately rented properties for three families in the borough, but needs to track down a total of five as part of a deal between its parent body Citizens UK, the council, and the government.
The deal, struck in October, means that the council will use its connections to find five more empty private homes, whilst Whitehall will pay the rent.
The National Refugee Welcome Board was set up by community umbrella group Citizens UK with the intention of resettling 20,000 Syrian refugees who had fled war and terrorism. They aim to fulfil this goal by 2020.
One of the three landlords who has already stepped forward, Yvette Mahon, said: ‘We wanted to do more than continue to watch the desperate images of refugees on our screens. It has been an enormously positive and rewarding thing. It has been about trying to make a small difference to one family at a difficult time in their lives, but also making cultural connections, sharing of experiences, amazing Syrian food and a fast developing friendship between two ordinary families.’
Any landlord who offers to host a Syrian refugee family is paid rent to the value of housing benefit. There is also the offer of help decorating and furnishing the property if they want it.
Yvette continued: ‘Life isn’t easy for them here in London, either, but they are positive and resilient and slowly they are jigsaw-ing together a new life. We are extremely happy we’ve been able to add at least one piece to that jigsaw.’
Islington’s community development chief councillor Kaya Comer-Schwartz said: ‘Islington was one of the first local authorities to welcome vulnerable people fleeing the Syrian conflict. Islington has so far accepted 10 families – 34 adults and children – into our community. That number includes three babies born in the UK. One was born just last week. We are incredibly proud to be a partner in the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme, offering refuge and aid to families fleeing a truly horrific humanitarian crisis.’