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'We need a home in Hackney for refugee family' - sponsorship group appeals to landlords

PUBLISHED: 15:02 05 September 2019 | UPDATED: 15:07 05 September 2019

The Welcome Committee group in Exmouth Market.

The Welcome Committee group in Exmouth Market.

Archant

A group of friends are sponsoring a refugee family to settle in Hackney - but first need a landlord to let our their home.

The Welcome Committee group.The Welcome Committee group.

The Welcome Committee, formed of colleagues from human rights organisation Amnesty International, last year helped an Iraqi family settle in Lambeth and are now turning their attention to Hackney.

The group was set up in 2017 through the Home Office's community sponsorship scheme, which gives people the opportunity to do their bit by helping refugees settle in their area.

Member Amy Nesbitt explained: "We were researching refugee community solutions - one of which was community sponsorship.

"The idea is a community group comes together and finds a place for a family. You find housing, get everything prepared and help to welcome them."

Ahead of their first sponsorship effort, the group raised £50,000 - more than enough to support a second family under the scheme's conditions.

They chose Hackney as their second location because some of the members live there, including Amy.

Hackney Council has also taken in six Syrian refugee families under the government's Syrian Vulnerable Persons Relocation scheme.

Amy says Lambeth Council warned them it would be a challenge, but that didn't stop them, and she said both councils had been very supportive.

"We found the Lambeth property by handing out hundreds, if not thousands, of leaflets," she said. "And there was another community group doing it at the same time.

"We ended up finding three homes. The council had told us it would be a challenge but with enough outreach we did get interested landlords."

They are now hoping for a similar response in Hackney.

"We know how dire the housing situation is in Hackney but we are hopeful we can find a house," Amy added.

Once a property has been found and the group has identified GPs, schools and other services, they go to the Home Office.

The government will then choose a family, based on their vulnerability and needs, from the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR)'s list of families in refugee camps.

"The last family needed urgent medical care," said Amy. "They were in Turkey and from Iraq. When they arrives it's pretty intensive.

"We do everything from getting their medical checks, setting up bank accounts, helping them learn English, getting kids into schools. We help them settle for two years."

Any landlords interested in the project can get in touch with the group here.

Anyone interested in setting up their own group can find out more information here.

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