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Northern Ireland 'ready to welcome Syrian refugees'

Published 23/11/2015

Refugees wait to be allowed by the Greek police to cross the borderline into Macedonia (AP)
Refugees wait to be allowed by the Greek police to cross the borderline into Macedonia (AP)

Northern Ireland will be ready to accommodate the first group of Syrian refugees relocating to the region, the Assembly has been told.

Social development minister Mervyn Storey said intensive planning discussions were ongoing between central and local government and appropriate voluntary sector organisations.

The first group of refugees from war-torn Syria moving to Northern Ireland as part of the UK-wide Vulnerable People Relocation Scheme is set to arrive in December.

Up to 100 Syrians are expected.

Mr Storey, in response to an Assembly question tabled by Alliance MLA Trevor Lunn, said: " All agencies involved are content Northern Ireland will be ready for the arrival of the first group of refugees, which is expected during December."

The minister said he was aware of some negative commentary on social media about the refugees' imminent arrival. He branded the comments "disgusting".

"I think as we come near the time of Christmas the message is of course the coming of the one who is the prince of peace and goodwill and extending that to others - others who are in circumstances that, I have to say, none of us can appreciate or comprehend," he said.

Mr Storey said he was taking a "very personal interest" in the relocation scheme.

"I believe that it is incumbent on us as an Executive and as a community that we make our contribution to this national scheme and that we keep as a focus that we are dealing here with real people who have real issues and real needs," he said.

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