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SIC buys houses to resettle Syrian refugees

SHETLAND Islands Council has bought two houses in Lerwick for resettling Syrian refugees.

However, the council will only be ready to take in the two families later this summer once the necessary support is in place, such as translators.

Councillors unanimously agreed in November to resettle the families from war-torn Syria after signing up to the UK government Syrian Vulnerable Persons Scheme in 2015.

It came after concerns that the council could have been doing more to take part in the resettlement process.

Councillors agreed on plans to set a price limit on the houses of £160,000 each, with the Scottish Government providing funding towards the scheme.

SIC interim leader Steven Coutts said the council has been looking at how other local authorities, such as Orkney and the Western Isles, have integrated themselves into the scheme.

“We look at things like kind of the language skills of the families, we’re looking at interpreter services,” he said.

“It’s also a very different culture here in terms of Shetland against to what they’ve been used to in Syria. It’s all that support services that you maybe don’t kind of fully appreciate.”

Coutts said that the two houses will remain on the council’s books.

He added Shetland is part of a “global world” and added that the council is “very keen to do its bit and provide that caring environment for these families”.

Lerwick north and Bressay councillor Stephen Leask echoed these views saying that the most important thing was “to get it right”.

The vice chairman of the development committee added: “There is a ‘hell on earth’ situation in Syria, and it has become a lot clearer that we actually have to achieve this for the refugees.

“We see other areas in Scotland and other islands nearby actually taking more refugees, and possibly that is something we will have to look at in the future.”

 Scotland has resettled 2,150 Syrian refugees since October 2015, Nicola Sturgeon told the Scottish Parliament during First Minister’s Question Time on Thursday.

Scottish Parliament election, 6 May 2021