SOLIHULL COUNCIL is refusing to set out its plans to help the current global refugee crisis.
Following a week of questioning from The Observer, the Council has refused to confirm whether it will play a part in offering some of the world’s most vulnerable men, women and children a safe new home.
We also asked whether Solihull would be signing up to the Vulnerable Persons Relocation (VPR) scheme for Syrian nationals.
But the Council has refused to confirm or deny whether it will join the nation-wide scheme.
In an official statement, Solihull Council’s Cabinet Member for Stronger Communities and Partnerships, Coun Karen Grinsell, argued that while the Council was ‘extremely concerned and distressed’ with the situation, it was awaiting Government guidance on its ‘role in working with Syrian refugees’.
This is despite the fact the Government launched the VPR scheme for Syrian nationals in January 2014.
While the Government cannot force councils to sign up to the VPR scheme, pressure is mounting on local authorities across the country to do their bit – with many saying they will take in a set number of refugees or refugee families.
The scheme accepts refugees based on ‘need rather than being designed to meet a quota’ – prioritising help for survivors of torture and violence, and women and children at risk or in need of medical care – and will be fully funded for the first year from the Government’s £12 billion international aid budget.
Since the start of the conflict, neighbouring Coventry has already relocated more than a third of the 216 people the Government has granted asylum to under the VPR programme – with Coventry Council Leader, Coun Ann Lucas, pledging to do the ‘right thing’ in continuing to welcome more refugees and asylum seekers to the city.
Solihull Council, meanwhile, has simply urged local residents and voluntary organisations to ‘continue with their activities’ to support refugees.
At the time of going to print, The Observer was told the Council was still ‘currently awaiting guidance’.