A Warm Welcome for a Syrian Family

The Archdiocese of Cardiff is pleased to be able to make available an unoccupied property to house a refugee family from Syria. The planning and organisation of this important initiative has been led by Sr. Ruth O’Neill on behalf of the Diocese. Sr. Ruth is member of the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul, living in Ely and works with people who are seeking asylum. Government and local authority legislation regarding the resettlement of refugees is quite complex. This is necessarily so, given the different culture and background as well as physical and psychological needs of those who have seen a great deal of violence and suffered so much.

Parishioners, County Council and Housing officials met together to explore the possibilities of making a suitable house available as well as addressing the needs of the prospective family. The enthusiasm of both the parishioners and officials is striking and everybody concerned is committed to making a “success” of this important initiative. The family will be welcomed as part of the UK Government’s Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement scheme. (SVPRS).

The family to be resettled is part of the quota of 20,000 refugees that the UK Government is committed to welcoming between 2015-2020. Unlike most who have already arrived having fled their countries and making long and dangerous journeys, the journey of this family will be carefully planned for them. Before leaving Syria, they will have been identified as needing Humanitarian Protection. Their past experiences will undoubtedly have been traumatic, but they will be assured of a warm welcome and secure environment in which to rebuild their lives. They will travel safely and be met on arrival. They will have the right to work in the UK and, as refugees, will have the same entitlements as UK citizens.

The property will be managed on behalf of the parish and the Diocese by Hafod Housing Association’s Cartrefi Hafod team which specialises in finding accommodation in the private rented sector to help house homeless people. The Housing Association already has some experience of partnership working for the SPVRS, but this will be the first partnership in Wales to include a property belonging to the Catholic Church. It promises to be a model of good working practice and relationships with the local community. Local authorities are struggling to find other properties which can be used for the Scheme and is looking to the private and voluntary sector for assistance in identifying and making properties available. It is important for the Church and other organisations not just to identify problems to Government but also help in providing solutions.

Following the example of Pope Francis , who himself has brought Syrian Refugee families to live in Vatican property, the Catholic Church in England and Wales is encouraging people to look at ways in which they can help resolve this humanitarian crisis. Prayer, practical, financial, or organisational help, as well as emotional and spiritual support are all part of the endeavour of resettlement. Teaching English, offering professional skills and advice or merely saying “hello” each have their part to play also. SVPRS will provide this family with specialist support during their first year in the UK. The longer term orientation, settling and integration will rely very much on the welcome they receive from the local community.

In thanking Sr. Ruth and all those who are helping make this endeavour possible, the words of Pope Francis are an inspiration and encouragement:

“I admire the courage of those who hope to be able gradually to resume a normal life, waiting for joy and love to return to brighten their existence. We can and must all nourish this hope”.

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