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Seeking sanctuary in Britain: the family carrying hope and memories of home

The family has spent the last few years in tents in Lebanon but is hoping find a better life in Britain.

Amber Rudd speaks to Syrian refugees in Lebanon (David Wilcock/PA)
Amber Rudd speaks to Syrian refugees in Lebanon (David Wilcock/PA)

A Syrian father destined for Britain has told of his one simple aim for him, his wife and their three children in the UK – a better life.

Their home for the last few years has been a refugee camp in Lebanon, where his sons, now secondary school-aged, have spent some of their formative years living in a tent.

From next month they will call Britain home, all the while hoping to one day see Damascus again.

Amber Rudd meets Syrian refugees in eastern Lebanon (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

The family, who cannot be identified because of their vulnerable status, fled the Syrian capital early in the war.

The father, speaking to reporters at a UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) base in Zahle, less than an hour’s drive from the Syrian border, said it had been hard to leave their home and friends.

But he added: “I wanted safety for my children. The situation wasn’t bearable for my family any more so I decided to flee.”

The Qab Elias Informal Settlement in the Bekaa Valley (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

While the family is grateful to the Lebanese government for taking them in, finding work has been hard and they have struggled to pay rent for the space they call home.

His eldest son, who dreams of becoming an engineer, is asked what he misses most about home.

In a quiet voice he replies: “Everything.”

In a matter of weeks the family will join 10,000 other vulnerable refugees in Britain who have escaped from the conflict through a programme co-ordinated with the UNHCR.

The refugee camp is close to the Syrian border (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

The Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme (VPRS) was set up in 2015 and sees local authorities take in the lucky few who get chosen.

The first 12 months of a refugee’s resettlement costs are funded by the UK Government using the overseas aid budget.

The next four years see councils receive a tapering amount of money for each refugee, from £5,000 in year two to £1,000 in year five.

The man said he hoped to find work in the UK, adding: “It might be at the beginning a bit hard but gradually it will get better.”

Asked whether he would like to stay in the UK or return home to Syria, he said: “It’s our mother country and we hope it happens.

“We ask God that it might happen. We pray that it might happen.”

Press Association


From Belfast Telegraph