Petition to bring Syrian refugees to Hertfordshire calls on councils to act

PUBLISHED: 17:20 10 September 2015 | UPDATED: 09:12 11 September 2015

A young Syrian boy, wrapped with a thermal blanket, arrives with others after crossing aboard a dinghy from Turkey, on the island of Lesbos, Greece, Monday, Sept. 7, 2015. The island of some 100,000 residents has been transformed by the sudden new population of some 20,000 refugees and migrants, mostly from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

A young Syrian boy, wrapped with a thermal blanket, arrives with others after crossing aboard a dinghy from Turkey, on the island of Lesbos, Greece, Monday, Sept. 7, 2015. The island of some 100,000 residents has been transformed by the sudden new population of some 20,000 refugees and migrants, mostly from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

An online petition created by a district councillor, which has been signed by more than 1,000 people, is urging the county council to welcome at least 50 Syrian refugees to the area.

Councillor Simon Grover began a petition on the campaign website 38 Degrees calling for the county council to “support the efforts of district councils and voluntary/charity groups in Hertfordshire to welcome at least 50 Syrian refugees, under the government scheme”.

The scheme, named the Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme (VPRS), was launched by the Government in January 2014 and allows local authorities to apply for funding to house refugees.

As of June 2015, the scheme had only managed to welcome 216 people into the UK, sparking criticism from campaigners and charities.

Earlier this year at a full meeting of the district council in St Albans, councillors voted unanimously in principle to welcome Syrian refugees to the area.

Implementation of the scheme would require close collaboration between St Albans district council and Herts county council.

Cllr Grover said: “I’m delighted that the [district] council has got behind this idea.

“People watch the terrible scenes on TV of millions of displaced people in Syria and want something to be done. Now, we have the opportunity to play our part in actually doing something to help.”

A district council spokesperson said that it was “ready to play its part in any nationally agreed and co-ordinated approach to refugees” and that it was “seeking further details so we can better understand what support and public services will be needed to deliver an effective and co-ordinated response”.

Cllr Robert Gordon, leader of Herts county council, said that the council “will continue to play its full part alongside the county’s housing authorities and other local public services to support Syrian refugees choosing to settle locally”.

A tweet from the council said: “As soon as we know more about who, when and how many we will provide more details.”

The St Albans Quakers have also expressed their willingness to welcome Syrian refugees in an open letter to St Albans district council chief executive, James Blake.

The letter, signed by Michael Bartlet and William Randles, said: “We are a small worshipping community of Quakers, some of whom have spare rooms in our houses

“Others are willing to help with teaching English or offering a meal.”

For more information and to sign the petition, visit you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/refugees-welcome-in-hertfordshire-4

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