UK in north and south holds out hand to welcome Syrian refugees

Prayer vigil for refugees outside Westminster CathedralMazur/

Norfolk County Council has become the latest in the UK to declare itself ready to welcome refugees from Syria.

Norfolk has pledged to help the government meet its plege of taking in 20,000 in the next five years by taking in 50 refugees. 

The Bishop of Norwich Graham James, a member of the local refugee task force, welcomed the decision, the Evening News reported.

He said: "I am glad to learn that Norfolk will welcome some Syrian refugees. Those who have known persecution and been displaced from their homes and countries have found a haven in Norfolk in past times.

"It is good that this tradition continues. I am sure many local people will do what they can to support the Syrian families when they arrive."

The council went ahead with the plan after district councils agreed to help make up a funding deficit.

Cliff Jordan, leader of Norfolk County Council, said: "Norfolk has a long tradition of extending the hand of friendship to those in need and I am sure that will hold true in the case of the Syrian refugees."

However, the council's six UKIP members voted against.

Toby Coke, UKIP leader, said of his decision: "It's not just down to the cost, it's the extra pressures on housing and school places."

Nearby Suffolk has agreed to take up to 200 Syrian refugees and Cambridge City Council agreed to take 50.

Meanwhile, a Catholic parish in Salford is leading the way in a new government community sponsorship scheme for Syrian refugees. 

The scheme gives Catholic parishes the chance to help refugees settle and integrate into their new communities.

The diocese is working with the Church's social action arm, Caritas Salford, and the first refugees to arrive under the community sponsorship scheme will arrive in the next few weeks.

Cardinal Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, said: "Last year, Pope Francis invited every parish, religious house and monastery in Europe to respond to the growing refugee crisis by offering a place of sanctuary to families fleeing from war and persecution in their home countries.

"The Pope called on our generosity and solidarity to recognise and act upon our common humanity. Now we are all able to take up that call with the launch of the community sponsorship scheme for Syrian refugees."

St Monica's parish in Salford is part of the pilot scheme.

Sean Ryan, of St Monica's, said: "The Catholic Church has been heavily involved in putting this together and after a huge amount of work, both the Home Office and the local authority are ready to give the go-ahead. We now look forward to receiving the first families later this Summer.

"There has been a lot of interest from other Catholic parishes and groups who want to get involved. They have been calling us and also Caritas Salford, where Mark Wiggin has been at the forefront of this project, so St Monica's should be the first of many parishes take on the resettlement of Syrian families."

Bishop of Salford John Arnold said: "I am delighted that St Monica's parish in Flixton is now able to welcome a Syrian refugee family through the government's community sponsorship as it launches this week. We are always called to respond to hatred with love, to be dedicated to justice and to respond to need with generosity."