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SIC to discuss Syrian refugee resettlement

TWO families from war-torn Syria could be resettled in Shetland within the next year if the idea gets the approval of councillors.

The proposal would see Shetland Islands Council buy two suitable homes in Lerwick with financial assistance from the Scottish Government.

It is thought that the process of buying the accommodation could take six months while it might take another three months before the families arrive.

Back in 2015 the SIC agreed to take part in the Syrian Vulnerable Person’s Relocation scheme, and while Orkney and the Western Isles have taken in families, Shetland has not.

Pressure has been building on the SIC to do more to take in families and the matter will now be discussed at the next full council meeting on Wednesday.

Councillors are asked to support plans to progress with taking in two families and back a recommended option to purchase two housing units.

There would be a proposed £160,000 price limit on a property, with the Scottish Government in line to grant £57,000 per house.

The resettlement scheme would have a two-stage vetting process, with the Home Office able to reject refugees on security grounds, while those with a “criminal past or links to war crimes or extremism” are excluded from the process.

Among the housing options was to use two available accommodation units in Shetland, but this would have likely been in the North Isles, meaning access to services would be difficult.

One other option is to use existing accommodation in Lerwick, but this would “put pressure on existing stock and would have a direct impact on our waiting list”.

In year one of the scheme, funding would come through a tariff basis, which is £8,520 per person for direct local authority costs, and there is also additional support for educational and medical needs.

In years two to five funding would be allocated over a period of four years, ranging from £5,000 per person in year two to £1,000 in year five.

The report due to be presented to councillors says that if resettlement is undertaken by the SIC’s housing service, “there will require to be an amendment to the normal lettings process to ensure transparency and fairness.

“Properties would then have to be held vacant for this process, while the Home Office respond with details of families of the relevant household size, who had indicated a desire to live in a rural area. This will incur a rental loss accordingly.”