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Refugees

If you're ESOL registered and want to help we currently have volunteering opportunities.

Syrian Resettlement Programme

As you may have read in the press, two families from war-torn Syria are starting to build a new life in Orkney. The families, both with young children, were living in refugee camps in the Middle East after they were forced to leave their own homes during the Syrian conflict. They were offered the chance to live in Kirkwall after the Home Office took up an offer from Orkney Islands Council to provide accommodation for two families caught up in the fighting as part of a UK-wide resettlement programme. The families are now settling into their new homes after arriving in the islands.

The families are being resettled under the Syrian Resettlement Programme. The UK Government made a commitment to take 20,000 Syrian refugees from camps under the programme during the course of this Parliament, with the Scottish Government making a commitment to take a minimum of 2,000 refugees as a starting point. The programme prioritises people in greatest need - that includes people who need urgent medical attention, people who have survived torture and violence and women and children at risk. People often live in refugee camps for years and many children have lived their entire lives in such precarious circumstances.

The Home Office ensures anyone arriving as part of the programme meets the UK’s eligibility process. As part of this they go through a thorough two-stage vetting process. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has robust identification processes in place and potential cases are then further screened by the Home Office. The Home Office has the right to reject individuals on security, war crimes or other grounds, including where there isn’t enough information to carry out effective screening. Anyone with a criminal past or links to war crimes or extremism is excluded.

The Orkney Partnership’s Syrian Resettlement Programme Working Group was established to make sure that we had co ordinated and effective resettlement plans in place. As part of this we developed a range of support measures, too many to list here, but they included housing, health, language, schooling and the many adaptations the families will need to make following their change in circumstances. We want to make sure can help our new residents feel welcome and safe.

More information is available on our Refugees FAQs page.

Donations

We are aware some people would like to donate goods such as furniture or clothing. While we very much appreciate kind gestures such as this, we will only make requests for specific items if and when they are identified as being needed. We know that there are great local charities that may be able to assist you if you do want to donate items to other vulnerable groups who may have a need.

Thank you very much for your interest.

Volunteers/befrienders

Some members of the community have already been in touch with us to offer us their support and we had a really positive response to our request for Arabic speakers to help us. 

If you’re interested in helping in future and want to donate time, skills or other practical help to refugees arriving in Orkney please let us know by getting in touch through the contact details below. It would be appreciated if you could include brief details of the support you can provide, for example befriending or informal interpretation.

Expressions of interest will be logged and training will be provided. We’ll get back to you when this has been arranged. Please be assured that an expression of interest is not a commitment and we thank you for your interest in helping out.

PVG (Protection of Vulnerable Groups Scheme) membership (for protected adults and children) will be required for some forms of direct support such as the befriending volunteers. There will be no cost to you. For further information about the PVG scheme please see the Disclosure Scotland website.

We hold and process personal details in accordance with the Data Protection Act 1998 and we are registered with the Information Commissioner. For more information, please visit their website. Personal details will not be made public but, for the purposes of planning, we will share information with the members of our Syrian Resettlement Programme Working Group. Members of the Group come from the community planning partners or are individuals who have been co-opted onto the group to provide assistance.

Contact details

For volunteers/befrienders or donations contact:

Rob McGregor at Voluntary Action Orkney

For more general queries around the Resettlement Programme contact: 

Marie Love
Community Planning Business Manager
Orkney Islands Council
School Place
Kirkwall KW15 1NY

Telephone: 01856 873535 extension 2153
Email: marie.love@orkney.gov.uk