Manchester yet to accept a single Syrian refugee

A Manchester councillor has slammed the council’s ‘sickeningly shallow’ attitude towards the crisis.

A Manchester councillor has demanded that the local authority commit to housing at least 50 Syrian refugee families and “as many as possible” lone children.

Manchester, along with other councils in Greater Manchester, is yet to accept a single Syrian refugee under the Resettlement Scheme that was announced in 2015, despite the war-torn region enduring one of the worst crises for decades.

Councillor John Leech, the city’s sole opposition member, questioned the Deputy Leader of the Council, Cllr. Sue Murphy, on the recent treatment of Syrian child refugees, asking how many of the unaccompanied children the city had housed since the beginning of the conflict.

Ms Murphy was forced to admit that Manchester has only taken on unaccompanied asylum seeking children from around the world in single figures. In 2013, Manchester took just two, 2014 one, 2015 three, and 2016 three. She added that currently, Manchester is home to just 39 unaccompanied asylum seeking children. Mr Leech said these numbers were “depressingly low.”

There are an estimated 88,000 lone Syrian refugee children already in Europe at risk of being trafficked or abused.

Syria is enduring one of the worst crises for decades with tens of thousands of children at risk.

Cllr. Murphy said: “Manchester was prepared to play its part.”

The former Manchester Withington MP, John Leech, demanded that Manchester Council commit to housing at least 50 Syrian families and as many as possible unaccompanied minors, in what he describes as a “moral duty”.

But Manchester is still yet to accept a single Syrian refugee under the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme that was announced in 2015, including unaccompanied refugee children. Councils should be receiving monetary support from the government to help re-home refugees but this is not currently happening.

Cllr. Leech said the decision to turn away vulnerable children was “frankly just appalling” and accused the council of being “sickeningly shallow.”

He added: “Manchester is an international city that prides itself on being a leader in the world, but that role has a duty and a responsibility to do more in crises like this, and this absolutely is a crisis; there are tens of thousands of vulnerable children wandering around Europe completely alone; cold, sick and hungry, and it won’t be long before they end up stuck in a chain of horrific events including trafficking and abuse.

Cllr. John Leech spoke out passionately in Manchester’s full council meeting.

“Manchester has a moral duty to do absolutely everything we can to house these vulnerable children. How dare we even consider turning our backs.”

The EU’s criminal intelligence agency say that more than 10,000 children have already gone missing since arriving in Europe. They fear that children are being kidnapped for slavery and to be sexually exploited.

The five-year Syrian civil war has created more than 4.5 million refugees across the region and the UN has warned that a whole generation of Syrian children is at risk.

The government said it was taking action to help child refugees. Prime Minister, and former Home Secretary, Theresa May said: “We’re putting £10m into being able to being able to provide help and support for children who are in Europe.”

The Government’s progress towards meeting its pledge to resettle 20,000 Syrian refugees by 2020 has been slow, with only around 3,000 refugees having arrived so far.

Dr. Haytham Alhamwi, Managing Director of Rething Rebuild Society, said: “We are asking Manchester City Council to support Cllr Leech’s demands to accept at least 50 Syrian families through the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme that was announced in 2015.

“We also ask Manchester City Council to accept as many unaccompanied Syrian children as possible, who are in urgent need for all kinds of support”.