A Syrian refugee has thanked the people of the St Albans District for providing her family with a new home and said: “We feel much safer.”
Souhaila was resettled in the District from Lebanon along with her husband and young daughter last year.
Two other families of Syrian refugees were also relocated in the area and all are spending their first winter for three years in secure accommodation.
They fled their homes in the war-torn country in 2014 and lived in camps before being accepted into the UK.
The families, comprising twelve people, were taken in by St Albans City and District Council (SADC) as part of the Government’s Syrian Vulnerable Person Relocation Scheme.
Souhaila spoke publicly for the first time about her new life and said: “This time last year we were living in the cold in Lebanon, but this year we’re in a home that has heating.
“We’re so thankful to St Albans Council for helping us, and to our neighbours and local community for all of their help. We’ve been pleasantly surprised about how welcoming people have been here.
“We haven’t wanted for anything. We’re now all learning English and we’ve begun doing voluntary work locally.
“Of course we’re homesick from time to time and we miss our family, but we are happier here. We feel much safer.”
All three families are said to be settling in well in privately-rented accommodation organised by SADC.
The Refugee Council is supporting the families throughout their first year and beyond.
Over the next five years, SADC has agreed to take in around ten refugees a year with the Government committed to resettling 20,000 in the UK by 2020.
Some of the refugees are taking up volunteer work in an effort to integrate with the local community and find employment.
Refugee Council Resettlement Manager Hannah Picking said: “The Syrian families being welcomed by St Albans have been through horrific experiences that most people here would find hard to imagine.
“Yet we’re seeing incredible progress as they begin to rebuild their lives; every day one of the children will come home excited by a new English word they’ve learned or a new friend they’ve made.
“The people of St Albans should be extremely proud; they’re quietly helping transform lives by giving these families a brighter, safer future.”
Councillor Brian Ellis, SADC’s Portfolio Holder for Housing, said: “We are extremely pleased at the warm welcome the Syrian refugees have had from the people of St Albans.
“This has included offers of goods, general support and landlords coming forward to offer accommodation.
“We greatly appreciate these offers of help which contribute to the success of the scheme. The Refugee Council is keeping us informed of how the families are doing.”
Private landlords with suitable self-contained accommodation that could house further families should get in touch with the Council’s housing team on 01727-296140.