Published on 21 June 2023
Archived on 21 July 2023
World Refugee week runs from 19 to 25 June, celebrating the contributions, creativity and resilience of refugees and people seeking sanctuary. Held every year around World Refugee Day on the 20 June, it was founded in the UK in 1998.
Since 2016, Stratford-on-Avon District has successfully welcomed and resettled 20 refugee families. The first group of refugees were resettled through the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme (SVPRS). More recently, Stratford has provided a refuge for more than 360 Ukrainians fleeing the war in Ukraine, as well as those seeking to escape conflict and persecution in Afghanistan and a small number of refugees from other countries including Iraq, through the UK Resettlement Scheme.
The District Council would like to express its thanks to all of those involved in this process and especially those individuals and communities that have gone to extraordinary lengths to open their homes and hearts to these new arrivals.
Establishing oneself in a different country is a challenging prospect, as it involves overcoming language barriers, negotiating new systems and establishing relationships but many have done just this, as they have succeeding in building a fulfilling life in their new home.
Laila, her husband and four daughters were among the first Syrians to arrive in Stratford-upon-Avon in 2016. Her language skills were immediately put to the test, as she explains: "I have a husband who is disabled, so he needs a lot of treatment… so I worked hard to improve my English and we began to study."
She was then able to volunteer as a translator for fellow Syrian refugees who arrived soon after. 'Other families came, most of them not good in English and it encouraged me to help them.' She accompanies refugees on medical and dental appointments, and has attended nine births, commenting that she has got to know many of the District's midwives at this point. In one instance of a complicated pregnancy, she stayed with the mother-to-be at hospital for a month so that the father could take care of the family's children at home.
Laila has also volunteered in a charity shop and found this was another great way to meet people and practice her language skills. She always advises people to be connected: "Studying is not enough. Because I like people, I have many friends. When you speak with people you improve your English. In hospital, the GPs, they all know me."
22-year-old Eman arrived in Stratford-upon-Avon from Syria in 2019. As she says she, "lived a peaceful life until the outbreak of the Syrian war. The conflict's escalation and the subsequent deterioration of living conditions forced me and my family to leave our home and seek refuge elsewhere… Initially, I was terrified to adapt here because I would live in a new country learning a new language, culture and people, but now I feel like I live in my home.
Over the past four years, my knowledge and experiences have expanded significantly. I completed my GCSEs in English and Maths ... Additionally, I obtained my driver's license… I dedicated two years to studying Access to Science … This year, I successfully concluded my studies and submitted applications to various universities intending to pursue a degree in pharmacy…. It is with great enthusiasm that I embark on this journey, eager to delve deeper into the realm of pharmacy and contribute to the well-being of others."
Eman is particularly grateful for the support of the Stratford-upon-Avon volunteer organisation Welcome Here, who in her words 'supported and empowered me, granting me the opportunity to become an impactful member of this country. Their unwavering assistance and guidance … have genuinely transformed Stratford into my second home.'
Stratford-on-Avon District Council's commitment
Building on the success of the Syrian scheme, over the next three years, Stratford-on-Avon District Council has pledged to resettle nine more families through the UKRS scheme and 20 through the Afghan schemes. There are no specific resettlement pledges numbers for Ukrainian households.
To make for a smooth and sustainable resettlement, support workers and interpreters assist families as they settle into the neighbourhood, helping them to engage with services, arrange hospital appointments and enrol in schools and nurseries.
Welcome Here is a volunteer group that works to help refugees in the District 'rebuild their lives and achieve their full potential.' Volunteers help with a range of activities, including English conversation clubs, driving people to appointments, and facilitating social events such as cookery groups to create a space for refugees to connect and share cultural experiences.
Refugee members of the group recently participated in an arts collaboration between The Royal Shakespeare Company and local volunteer organisations, featuring in a video project and curating costumes to appear in the new permanent exhibition 'The Play's the Thing', located in the RSC building.
How you can help
The District Council needs privately rented accommodation of all sizes to resettle refugees. Local landlords are encouraged to contact the District Council if they have a self-contained property to let.
Please email: firstname.lastname@example.org with offers of housing or for further information please visit: Resettlement and Refugees | Stratford-on-Avon District Council
Alternatively, if you would like to get involved with Welcome Here volunteer group, please visit the Facebook page: Welcome Here Stratford-upon-Avon.
For more information about the free exhibit 'The Play's the Thing', please visit the RSC website.
Stratford-on-Avon District Council
Elizabeth House, Church Street,
Tel: 01789 267575