Cash wrangle delays arrival of Syrian refugees in Norfolk

Migrants and refugees in a rubber dinghy arriving on the beach at Psalidi near Kos Town, in Kos, in

Migrants and refugees in a rubber dinghy arriving on the beach at Psalidi near Kos Town, in Kos, in Greece. Pic: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire - Credit: PA

A wrangle over the financial impact of Norfolk taking in 50 Syrian refugees has led to delays in resettlement, with council bosses and the government at loggerheads over the cost of support.

The British government has agreed to take in 20,000 refugees over the next five years from the Syrian civil war, described as the biggest refugee crisis to hit Europe since the Second World War.

More than 1,700 people signed a petition calling for Norfolk to offer sanctuary to some of those refugees.

Norfolk councils agreed that, in principle, the county could take 50 refugees, with Norwich City Council and Broadland District Council making a commitment to take them in the greater Norwich area.

Norfolk County Council has been talking to the government over the refugees coming to the county, but funding and the need for specialised services remain major sticking points.

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Statutory agencies in the county have prepared what a county council spokesman described as 'sound estimates' for the potential financial costs of refugees coming here.

But council leader George Nobbs said the Home Office had so far refused to meet the costs which councils in Norfolk said were needed to provide the specialist support services the refugees would need.

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And papers are being drawn up so councillors can decide what to do - which could ultimately see them decide to pull out of the offer to take refugees.

Mr Nobbs said: 'This will ultimately be a decision for the full council. We would be failing our duty if we did not try to get the government to agree to what we feel the real cost will be.

'The government does not seem to be showing any sense of urgency whatsoever.'

A spokesman for Norfolk County Council, said: 'The county council has co-ordinated work to develop a robust resettlement scheme for Syrian refugees that is realistic about the specialist support families may need to integrate successfully.

'We have set out detailed arrangements for providing housing, interpretation, education, social care and health services, including mental health services.

'Statutory agencies in Norfolk already have experience of resettling refugees through the Gateway Programme and we have prepared sound estimates for central government about the potential financial costs, to minimise any impact on already stretched local services and taxpayers in Norfolk.

'We intend to take a report seeking a decision on Norfolk's participation in the scheme to our policy and resources committee on May 31, with a recommendation to full council on July 25. This will allow elected members to consider the potential options available to them.'

The council would not reveal what its cost estimates were.

MPs will next week vote again on whether Britain should accept 3,000 lone refugee children marooned in Europe after the House of Lords backed a bill amendment. Conservative MPs, including Norwich's Chloe Smith, had previously voted against the move.

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