New year talks set over Norfolk offer to take in Syrian refugees

A family tries to keep warm with blankets, after the boat on which they crossed a part of the Aegean

A family tries to keep warm with blankets, after the boat on which they crossed a part of the Aegean sea from Turkey hit on rocks, on the Greek island of Lesbos, on Saturday, Dec. 12, 2015. Pic: AP Photo/Santi Palacios - Credit: AP

Formal talks over Norfolk taking in 50 Syrian refugees are due to begin in the new year – but council leaders say it is crucial that services which do not currently exist in the county are put in place before any arrive.

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.

Norfolk councils have 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.

But funding and the need for specialised services remains a sticking point.

A spokesman for Norfolk County Council said work had been done to explore what key public services – some of which do not currently exist in Norfolk – the refugees would need.

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She said: 'They would be specialised services which would support some refugees who have been through extremely traumatic situations associated with a war-torn country.

'We expect to start formal discussions with central government in the new year about participating in the scheme.

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'There's a real will to help and it's important that we try to do our bit in this national effort, but it's vital that we do it in a responsible way, to ensure there is support for refugees to successfully integrate in Norfolk.'

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