Author: Julie Al-Zoubi
This article is part of Changing the Narrative. Articles in this series are written by student or early career journalists who took part in The Local’s training course on solutions-focused migration reporting. Find out more about the project here.
In 2015 the four million people fleeing Syria’s civil war grabbed the world’s attention. As the UK government pledged to resettle 20,000 of them, local communities were inspired to play their own part. Five years later, community sponsors say a scheme designed to help newcomers integrate has also helped their neighbourhoods thrive.
In 2016 the UK government set up the Community Sponsorship Scheme (CSS), with the aim of offering refugees a safe and legal route for entering the UK, improving their chances of settling in and learning English and ultimately finding work. Over 150 community groups across the UK have now welcomed and provided support to more than 400 Syrian refugees as they attempted to rebuild their lives in an alien new environment.
Under the scheme, arriving families are welcomed at the airport by members of their sponsorship team and escorted to their new home where a hot meal and well stocked fridge awaits them. Their home will have been thoughtfully furnished with consideration given to the family’s cultural/religious needs and will include items such as net curtains and a shoe rack.
Meeting the family for the first time is the culmination of around a year’s work by the sponsor group whose obligations include sourcing suitable affordable housing for the family and raising £9,000 through fundraising to cover costs, including furnishing the house, paying for translations and providing English lessons.