David Tatham on behalf of Refugee Action, Hereford explains.
It was a bitterly chill November morning when the first group of Syrian refugees arrived at Birmingham Airport, destined for Hereford. Four families, thirty people in all, were met by members of Refugee Action, the NGO contracted by Herefordshire Council to settle in the refugees and introduce them to their new life in England.
Since then the new-comers have moved into their private rented accommodation and begun to make the arrangements for everyday living which all families in England know so well – appointments with GPs, with dentists, getting to know the shops and supermarkets, wrestling with gas and electricity bills. The children are all placed in schools in Hereford: to start with the focus is on English language tuition and they are reacting with enthusiasm. Helen Richardson, Refugee Action’s manager in Hereford, told me that the young Syrians are adapting with ease to their new environment and there have been no integration issues.
Basic to settling in is knowledge of English and the grown-ups have been equally enthusiastic about the English lessons which Refugee Action have provided. In addition, Harriet Yellin, who runs the Council’s Herefordshire Language Network, has trained up a team of Arabic language interpreters to provide skilled interpreting for interviews and visits to schools and doctors.
A further group of refugees from Syria is expected in the spring. We hope they will settle in as well as this first group have.