by Victoria Prest & Kate Liptrot
SYRIAN refugee families will be offered private rented accommodation in York as city leaders fear that offering council homes would lead to a backlash from locals.
More than 100 people have offered rooms in their own houses to refugees fleeing the war torn country, but the city's refugee forum has been advised it is preferable for people to live independently on arrival in the UK.
Social housing has been ruled out as the forum, brought together by City of York Council, feared offering council homes to refugees could attract criticism from local people.
Instead, private sector houses will be found for the first two or three families due to be rehomed in York through local faith groups, including the York Mosque & Islamic Centre.
Kevin Curley, the acting chief executive officer of York CVS, told a charity website: "I'm working with York CVS for a few weeks, so I've taken part in forum meetings. With leadership from councillor Keith Aspden, the Liberal Democrat deputy leader of the council, more than 40 people from 20 voluntary organisations and faith groups have committed to a settlement programme.
"The Two Ridings Community Foundation is leading a fundraising appeal so that young refugees can have bicycles and laptops like their peers. There was dismay at the forum meeting when we heard that York would receive about 12 people - two or three families. In York, the capacity to welcome Syrian civil war refugees exceeds likely demand.
"It's a welcome contrast to the reception we gave Asian refugees from Uganda in 1972. Thrown out by dictator Idi Amin, 40 families arrived in York to find chaos, with York Community Council organising their reception by itself.
"In Leicester, the council used newspaper advertisements to discourage refugees, claiming no jobs were available in the city. Forty years on, Britain's voluntary and public sectors proclaim that refugees are welcome here and are backing the rhetoric with coordinated, effective preparations."
On Friday, council officers were in talks with Migration Yorkshire about the plans to offer 60 refugees a home in the city over the next five years, but it is understood that the first families are still not expected to arrive for some time.
Cllr Aspden said: "We have been asking lots of questions through the Local Government Association to get some certainty on the level of funding that will be available."
He said they now knew the grants that would be coming from central government to the local authorities who will be helping refugees, which range from around £8,500 per adult to £13,000 for a school-age child over the first year.
"All the advice we are getting from local authorities currently doing this is that it's deliverable on that budget because over time the need for things like language support diminishes, and hopefully people will start to get jobs."