The borough has already welcomed 20 families so far and the council expects to reach its target of 23 families in the new year. Cllr Lib Peck, Lambeth Council leader, has now pledged to work with the community and partner agencies to welcome the extra five families.
Word from the Cabinet
Cllr Peck said: “Lambeth is an open, tolerant and compassionate borough – and the way that people have stepped up to help those in need is absolutely testament to that.
“The crisis in Syria is of such a scale that as a borough we felt we have to act to help those most in need, despite the challenges and the slowness of the UK government to accept refugees.
“We lobbied the government in 2015 to do more to welcome Syrian refugees and unaccompanied children after their initial reluctance to do so, and I’m proud that Lambeth has led the way in London to help so many of those who have been settled in the UK.
“While housing in particular is a clearly a major challenge in Lambeth that we are working hard to tackle, by working we have been able to accommodate 20 Syrian refugee families and now we are committing to welcoming five more.”
The work of local community groups has been crucial, with Lambeth Citizens helping to find properties from outside the social housing sector for the refugees. The borough also has a network of support groups that Syrian refugees have been able to rely on while dealing with the trauma of leaving a war zone with nothing, and starting life from scratch in a new country.
Cllr Peck attended a multi-faith refugee welcome party at the Church of the Holy Spirit, Narbonne Avenue, Clapham on December 10 for the families that have arrived. Local businesses donated Christmas presents for the refugees who have arrived in the last 18-months with just the possessions they could carry.
Cllr Peck said: “The support these families are receiving from our communities is incredible. Everyone has pitched in, opening their homes and their hearts to demonstrate their moving commitment to our shared humanity. I’m particularly grateful to Lambeth Citizens who have done so much to co-ordinate and support this community activity”.
Lambeth has lobbied the Government since 2015 on the need to take more Syrian refugees, in recognition of the appalling conflict there and the need for the UK to live up to its past record of helping those most in need.
Cllr Paul McGlone, the council’s Deputy Leader, visited the Calais refugee camp in August 2016 and called for the government to do more for unaccompanied children. Earlier this year Lambeth Council followed up by demanding an immediate U-turn on a Government decision to abandon a commitment to provide homes for thousands of refugee children (known as the Dubs amendment).
In total Lambeth has taken 20 families in total, 17 under the Syrian Vulnerable Person Resettlement Scheme (VPRS) and 3 under the linked Vulnerable Children Scheme (which includes families from the wider Middle East and North Africa).