Harrogate council votes to ‘play a part’ in welcoming refugees

NADV 1401142AM6 Council Offices. (1401142AM6)
NADV 1401142AM6 Council Offices. (1401142AM6)

Harrogate Borough Council voted unanimously to ‘play a role’ in the national response to help Syrian refugees following a groundswell of support in the town.

However a week after the council supported the motion no firm plans are in place as the council has not yet had a meeting with other district councils from across North Yorkshire which Cabinet Member for Housing Coun Mike Chambers (Con, Ripon Spa) had hoped would have happened earlier this week.

Last Thursday (September 10) the council unanimously voted in favour of a motion which read: “This council will play its full part in the national effort to welcome Syrian refugees.”

So far more than 50 councils in the UK have pledged to the Government that they will house refugees after Prime Minister David Cameron promised Britain would accept 20,000 people currently in refugee camps.

Coun Chambers said: “We have got to make sure that we are getting this right.

“It is no good rushing then further down the line we find we have not done it right, I would rather that we take more time to do things the right way.

“We need to be able to give these people the best chance possible at starting a new life.”

Coun Chambers and representatives from other North Yorkshire council’s are set to meet today (Thursday September 16).

North Yorkshire County Council leader Coun Carl Les (Con, Catterick) said: “The county council will do whatever is necessary to support the Government’s new resettlement programme and we will be meeting with both the Home Office and district councils in the near future to agree on the detail of a county-wide plan.”

Nearby Leeds City Council announced this week it would offer up to 200 Syrian families homes in Leeds and has set up a special task force to deal with the crisis.

More than 800 people have signed a petition calling on Harrogate to welcome refugees. Harrogate’s MP Andrew Jones said: “The Government will offer support to councils so they can house refugees. I have spoken to the Leader of Harrogate Borough Council, Coun Richard Cooper, who confirmed that our local council will play a full part in this national effort to welcome refugees just as the Council did housing Kosovan refugees in the 1990s.

“It is important, whatever we do, that we do not make the problem even worse. In the first six months of this year 220,000 people were known to have crossed the Mediterranean to Europe but the real figure is likely to be significantly higher. Over 11 million people have fled their homes in Syria because of the conflict there.

“Our approach will be to offer help and refuge to those fleeing war and terror, ensuring that they are supported.

“Taking refugees directly from the official UN camps near Syria ensures that their journey to the UK is a safe one and will not encourage more people to risk their lives and help combat people trafficking.”