Church becomes first Birmingham organisation to sponsor family of Syrian refugees
Birmingham's Methodist Church has become the first organisation in the city to take advantage of the government's community sponsorship scheme for Syrian refugees, by sponsoring a family of four as they settle into the city.
The family is among 500 Syrian refugees that Birmingham is committed to receiving over the next five years. Fifty have arrived in the city so far.
A year ago, the government committed to taking in 20,000 Syrian refugees across the UK, and in July the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and the Home Secretary Amber Rudd launched the sponsorship scheme.
Under the scheme, organisations can provide accommodation and support to refugees. Lambeth Palace became the first organisation in the country to house a group of Syrian refugees.
Methodist minister the Rev David Butterworth told the Birmingham Mail: "We hope that this family will be the first of many fleeing wars and horrors abroad that the Church can provide with sanctuary and love.
"We will be working alongside Birmingham City Council and the Home Office to provide support for further families and encouraging other organisations to join the Community Sponsorship scheme.
"To be able to provide a safe welcome to a refugee family is a wonderful privilege. The Methodist Church has worked very closely with Birmingham City Council to arrive at this point.
"We have also been supported greatly by Citizens UK, and by the National Refugee Welcome Board and locally encouraged by the Progressive Jewish Community and Sisters of Mercy Birmingham and not least by the Home Office."
In order to sponsor refugees organisations must have status as a registered charity or community interest company, the consent of the local authority and a comprehensive plan for resettlement.
Government immigration minister Robert Goodwill said: "I am delighted that the Methodist Church are taking part in the scheme, with the full support of Birmingham City Council, and I wholeheartedly encourage other organisations that can help to offer their support."
The government's Help Refugees in the UK website is designed to make it easier for members of the public to get involved. Users can select from a range of options including making donations for baby equipment, food and clothes.
Resettled families under the scheme will be granted humanitarian protection, meaning they can stay in the UK for a period of five years.
All Syrian refugees being resettled under the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement (VPR) scheme have been through what the Home Office called a "thorough" vetting process.
Birmingham's Labour cabinet member for communities, Waseem Zaffar, said: "At this stage we are treating this as a pilot scheme as we need to monitor how this works before committing to further sponsorship applications, but this is a great first step. What is happening in Syria is a human catastrophe and it is only right that we do all we can to offer shelter to people fleeing for their lives, something Birmingham has a proud history of. We will continue to work with partners to ensure refugees coming to Birmingham are settled and able to integrate into the city and start a new life here."