Meeting over plans to welcome refugee family to Whitehead

Whitehead Community Centre (image Google).
Whitehead Community Centre (image Google).

There will be a public meeting this evening (Thursday) over plans to host a Syrian refugee family in Whitehead.

The event has been organised by Whitehead Small World Group, formed in late 2017 with the aim of providing a welcoming environment to those granted refugee status through the Community Sponsorship Scheme.

The UK-wide scheme was announced by the Government in 2016 and aims to resettle refugee families in the country.

"It is the intention of the Whitehead Small World Group to gain approval to join this Government scheme and welcome a Syrian family to Whitehead by the end of 2018. We would be the first Northern Ireland Group to do so," a statement from the group read.

"We will provide support services to a family group to help them advance their lives and assist them with integration into our community. Our aim will be to protect their physical and mental health, to advance their education and training.

"We will help to relieve financial hardship and to find employment. Our group will work with the local community to promote community cohesion and raise awareness of the issues faced by refugees."

Paul Heyes from Whitehead Small World Group said: "I think most people are just not aware of the facts of the scheme and that's mainly what tonight's meeting is about.

"We would encourage everyone to come along tonight and have the chance to voice any fears or concerns."

Attending the event will be Tim Finch, who heads up the scheme in the UK, along with Olwyn Thomas from the Welsh village of Fishguard, which re-homed a Syrian refugee family in 2017.

The meeting will take place from 7:30pm at Whitehead Community Centre.

Meanwhile, police confirmed yesterday that inquiries are "ongoing" following the circulation of a leaflet critical of Islam in the Whitehead area.

Titled 'Something to consider, before Whitehead homes Islamic Refugees', the leaflets are understood to have been distributed to a number of homes across the town in recent weeks.

"Police are making inquiries to ascertain if the leaflets contain any material constituting a criminal offence," a PSNI spokesperson said.