The decision by Peterborough City Council to take in 100 Syrian refugees has been labelled a “pathetic response.”
Leader of the Liberal Democrat group, Councillor Nick Sandford, hit out at the ruling Conservative group for the agreement with government which will see five families resettle in the city every year until 2020.
Family groups will typically be two adults and two children and it is expected that the first families will arrive this autumn as part of the government’s Syrian vulnerable person resettlement programme.
Speaking last night (Monday, May 23) at a meeting of the full council, Cllr Sandford said: “One of the fastest growing cities can only take 20 people a year.
“It’s a pathetic response, it’s a tokenistic response.”
Cllr Ed Murphy, Labour and Co-operative member for Ravensthorpe, labelled the Conservative administration as “uncompassionate”.
Both councillors then jumped in to interrupt after Cllr John Holdich, leader of the council, referred to “migrants” while responding to their criticisms.
Cllr Holdich then said: “Whatever you call them, they have been a drain on our resources.”
Referring to a debate held in October last year, where the Conservatives voted down a move to resettle Syrian refugees in Peterborough, he added: “The financial situation has altered immeasurably. I think it’s been worth waiting. It’s about being compassionate and supporting our own.
“I’m sorry if that sounds harsh but that’s the way it is.”
The government has agreed to cover all the health, social and educational costs for all individual refugees.
This is in addition to them being able to access all benefits such as housing.
Refugees will also be able to work if they have the skills needed to do so.
Funding will come from the International Development Fund, so instead of this going to other countries it is being used to support refugees in the UK.
Cllr Holdich has wrote recently that Peterborough is already looking after 160 refugees, of which a quarter are children.
Announcing the arrival of Syrian refugees, he said: “I have been speaking with government and we have now come to an agreement on resettling a number of refugees in Peterborough.
“The government has confirmed that we will receive appropriate levels of funding for these families. That means that we can be sure that we’re offering them the help that they need and over the next few months we will be making appropriate arrangements to prepare for their arrival.
“This city has a long and proud history of welcoming those that need our help and we will be working with groups from across our community that have already offered their assistance.”
Leader of the Labour group, Cllr Mohammed Jamil, welcomed the announcement, but said that if a Labour motion had been agreed last year families would not have had to go through a hard winter.