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160 vulnerable Syrians to arrive in Northern Ireland by end of 2016

By Rebecca Black

Published 12/10/2016

Syrians watch a burning car among damaged buildings after air strikes in Aleppo (White Helmets/AP)
Syrians watch a burning car among damaged buildings after air strikes in Aleppo (White Helmets/AP)

Two more groups of Syrian refugees are expected to arrive in Northern Ireland by the end of the year.

Some 160 people are due to move here under the Government's Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme, which was launched by David Cameron.

Last year, the former Prime Minister said the UK would take in up to 20,000 Syrian refugees over five years.

The first arrived in Northern Ireland last December, and since then three more groups have come, totalling 221 people.

A further two groups are now expected to arrive before the end of the year.

Communities Minister Paul Givan gave the update in response to an Assembly question from SDLP MLA Mark Durkan. Mr Givan said that all of the refugees who had arrived here so far were making "very good progress" in developing their English language skills.

"To date, four groups of Syrian refugees, comprising 221 people in total, have come to Northern Ireland under the UK Government's Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme," he explained.

"Two more groups, totalling an estimated 160 people, are expected to arrive before the end of 2016. I can advise that the plans which were put in place by the department to manage the arrival and settlement of the refugees are working very effectively and the quality of the support systems is helping them to integrate into Northern Ireland society.

"An ability to speak and understand English will be crucial to the success of the refugees' integration, and I am pleased to report that all of the refugees who have arrived so far are accessing English language lessons and are making very good progress in developing their English skills."

All of the Syrian refugees arriving in Northern Ireland have experienced some degree of trauma and have been living for some time in cramped refugee camps in countries near their homeland.

To qualify for help under the scheme, persons must be either a survivor of torture or violence, or a woman or child at risk or in need of medical care.

The Government has committed itself to providing humanitarian protection, which means the people taken in have leave to remain for five years.

After that period is up, they are free to apply to settle in the country.

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