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Syrian refugees to arrive in province by end of the year

By Noel McAdam

Published 06/10/2015

The first 100 refugees from crisis-torn Syria will arrive in Northern Ireland by Christmas, Martin McGuinness has revealed.

There will then be further tranches of refugees on a phased basis, the Deputy First Minister told the Assembly.

And he indicated that the annual total for a number of years could be around 350.

"Based on receiving 350 refugees each year, it is estimated that first-year costs could be in the region of £1m, rising to £6m in total over three years," he revealed.

"The Executive need to consider how those costs could be met."

The total falls short of predictions the province would take around 2,000 refugees.

Answering an Assembly question from his Sinn Fein colleague Caitriona Ruane, he said the UK Government will meet the first-year costs for accommodation and contribute towards education costs. Stormont officials are also seeking clarification about any health and social care costs that may arise, Mr McGuinness added.

In a statement, he added: "Beginning with a modest number initially will assist learning and identification/resolution of difficulties.

"It's important the care we offer extends beyond simply opening the door for these people. Therefore we will also be implementing a Refugee Integration Strategy to ensure a smooth transition for the refugees into society."

He told the Assembly: "A range of complex issues is to be addressed in taking forward this work, the coordination of which will be for the strategic and operational groups."

Ms Ruane said the work that needs to be done to fully integrate refugees who are coming had to be underpinned by financial support.

The Belfast Telegraph last week revealed the Ministry of Defence is to consider opening Ballykinler Army base in Co Down to the refugees after a formal request from Newry, Mourne and Down District Council which said the district could house at least 100 refugee families.

Prime Minister David Cameron has vowed to allow 20,000 Syrian refugees into the UK.

But he said they would come from camps in the region, not from among those who have already journeyed to Europe.

Mr McGuinness added: "We not only have a political responsibility but a duty to respond to this crisis positively and extend the hand of friendship to those who are suffering from the worst humanitarian crisis of this century."

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