Recently it was confirmed to me that three Syrian refugees have settled in Kensington and Chelsea. This is under the Government’s Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement programme which aims to find room for 20,000 Syrian refugees in this country by 2020. Central Government funds the scheme from the Overseas Aid budget – local councils find the places and provide the help needed.
So three is a pretty modest number. But Hammersmith and Fulham Council is still on nil. The Labour council has been full of moral indignation while failing to do anything practical. For instance it has failed to email residents seeking offers of accommodation.
Their Policy Officer offered me the following explanation:
Dear Cllr Phibbs
We have no plans to email residents to seek offers of accommodation for Syrian refugees as the Home Office scheme is targeting vulnerable people who have escaped a war zone. They will need secure accommodation with appropriate care and support which we can not expect to be provided in the private homes of residents of the borough.
We have, instead, contacted housing associations and private landlords to secure accommodation that will be appropriate to the assessed needs of vulnerable refugees, once referred to us by the Home Office.
I replied as follows:
But I’m afraid your reply is completely unsatisfactory for two reasons.
1. What is “essential” is for as many Syrian refugees to be granted sanctuary – even if it is in a spare room rather than self contained accommodation. I note your personal view but I have asked (via another email chain) as to whether or not it reflects Council policy. If it does then that is a complete disgrace,
2. Even were the Council to cravenly follow the hopeless Home Office guidance there still might well be residents willing to offer self contained accommodation. (For instance a homeowner with a basement converted to a “granny flat” for an elderly relative who has subsequently died.) Were we to request this to the 25,000 residents on
the Council’s email list this would cost nothing. Even if only one property was made available as a result that would be a worthwhile exercise.
I had not had any proper response to that but last week Peter Smith did email to say
“I can confirm that the Council still has no plans to email residents to seek offers of accommodation for Syrian refugees.”
An absolute disgrace.
I think that when we have hundreds of empty properties then the LBH&F can offer everyone in Syria the chance to come and live in our very multicultural borough, until then let’s deal with the homeless within the borough and leave international matters to our government. The local council needs to deal with local issues.