1KH_8938.jpgSyrian refugees Obama Basheer, 8, holds her sister, Joud, 6 months

In the third of a series of articles by Refugee Welcome Wanstead – a community group planning to welcome a Syrian refugee family to the area – Eleanor Taylor reports on the group’s Home Office application

Thanks to all the support we’ve received from people in Wanstead and the surrounding areas, we’ve been pressing ahead with our project to welcome a Syrian refugee family to the area, and we’re delighted our application has been accepted.

When we last wrote in June, we were in the process of writing our application to the Home Office. This was a complex task that involved working with the Community Sponsorship Team at the Resettlement, Asylum Support and Integration department. We completed a long questionnaire, detailing how we will support the family and help them work towards independence once they are here. Our core group of volunteers were working for a number of months to complete the process.

Following submission, we had a detailed pre-approval meeting (virtually) with the Home Office in July. This was a nerve-racking experience, but we are pleased to say our application has recently been successful.

The timing couldn’t be better, as the situation for refugees across the world has become even more dangerous over the summer. The devastating explosion in the port of Beirut is estimated to have impacted thousands of Syrian refugees who had been forced to move to Lebanon, having already endured disaster in their home country. The family we will be welcoming to Wanstead will also be Syrian, displaced by the conflict there and currently living in a refugee camp in the Middle East. We have the opportunity to help one family escape from the constant dangers that life as a refugee can inflict.

There are still delays to the process due to Covid-19 restrictions, with UK embassies shut for visa applications. But the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the UN Refugee Agency and the International Organization for Migration announced in mid-June that resettlement departures for refugees would be resuming, so we are looking forward to pressing ahead.

Our next steps are to prepare as much as we can while we wait for the various agencies to match us with a suitable family. We are preparing a guide to Wanstead, which we hope will tell the family everything they need to know about our community, and help them feel welcome as soon as they arrive.

We are so grateful for the ongoing support shown by everyone in Wanstead and the surrounding areas, and as soon as we know more about the family who will be joining us, we will need lots more help, especially from people who have experienced the system or who have relevant language skills. In the meantime, if you are able to help or would like to donate to our project, please get in touch.

For more information, follow the group on Twitter @RefugeeWanstead or email refugeewelcomewanstead@gmail.com