December 2018 marked the third anniversary of the first Syrian refugee families arriving in Wiltshire.
Since then, the county has welcomed over 100 families, with 11 babies being born in the UK over that time. All of the refugees were settled as part of the government’s Syrian Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme.
The scheme, which launched in September 2015, saw UK government pledge to resettle an additional 20,000 Syrian refugees. After it was announced, Wiltshire council was one of the first local authorities to take part in the scheme, committing to help Syrian families with assistance from charities, faith groups, community groups and volunteers.
Thanks to the combination of a supportive community and a determined group of refugees, the new residents haven’t just survived, they’ve thrived.
Most of the refugees are now employed in the Wiltshire area. Two work for a tailor, one in a bakery, and another has qualified as a forklift driver. One duo has started their own food delivery business, while others are contributing by volunteering for charity shops and other community-focused initiatives.
“It’s hard to believe three years have passed since we welcomed the first families,” Wiltshire Council leader Jane Scott told Salisbury Journal.
“I said at the time I wanted them to be independent and really contribute to their community. I’m so pleased we have some great examples of them finding work, settling into the communities and making Wiltshire their home.”
One recent example is Loubna. Despite only arriving in Wiltshire in September, the mother of three is learning English and readily adapting to her new life—as are her children.
“It’s all going ok. The children have settled in schools really well and their English is much better than mine. I hope to work in nursing in the future.”
Similarly, brothers Sad and Abdallah, aged 20 and 15 respectively, are both in full-time education after arriving 18 months ago.
Sad is studying English at college and hopes to work in Wiltshire in the future. Abdallah is in Year 10 and wants to attend university
“I would love to do science at university because I love the subject,” he said. “It’s very good here and I’ve made plenty of friends at school.”
Loubna, Sad and Abdallah, along with other refugees, recently met with Baroness Scott to speak about their experiences resettling in Wiltshire.
Although these stories are confined to a single county in the UK, they are reflective of refugees across the country.
All have escaped unimaginable hardship, and all are determined to create a better life for themselves.
For more information about the UK Government’s Syrian Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme, click here.