COVENTRY is the second most welcoming place in the UK for refugees escaping the Syrian conflict, government data shows.
Figures compiled by community organising group Citizens UK found London, Coventry and Bradford resettled more people though the government’s flagship refugee scheme than anywhere else in the country.
Nearly 600 refugees have found a new home in Coventry, second only to London, since the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme (VPRS) was launched in 2015.
The government agreed to resettle 20,000 migrants by 2020 after the Syrian conflict prompted a humanitarian and refugee crisis.
Coventry is a recognised city of peace and reconciliation and has a history of welcoming refugees and asylum seekers.
Reverend David Butterworth, Methodist Minister for Birmingham District and leader of an interfaith sponsorship programme, said: “It’s no surprise that Coventry and Birmingham come out on top in regard to receiving refugees from the Syrian conflict. “Both Coventry and Birmingham were devastated in the war and had to start life again, just like the refugees we’re now proudly resettling.
“We have also made a good start on community sponsorship in the West Midlands and there is an appetite to do more.
“But that can only happen if the government moves quickly to announce an extension of its highly successful resettlement scheme.”
Last June, Coventry became the centre of the £3.5m MiFriendly Cities project to support migrants and refugees integrate into communities.
The scheme has provided education, employment opportunities and places to socialise – helping to fight exclusion, poverty and mental ill health among the region’s migrant populations.
Every year, the city holds a week-long festival celebrating the resilience and contribution of its refugee population, hosting games and cultural activities.
But as we revealed last August, despite the opportunities available to refugees in the city, there were more than 1,200 cases of destitution or extreme poverty among those local services supported in 2017/18, council figures show.
In 2015 the government committed to extending the VPRS scheme and resettle 20,000 refugees by 2020, but campaigners are calling for the government to extend the scheme beyond this date.
As the refugee crisis continues because of the continuing war in Syria, many communities and charities are calling on the government to commit to taking on more refugees.
The scheme aims to help the most vulnerable refugees including survivors of torture, people with serious medical conditions, and women with children.