Vulnerable Syrian refugees are set to arrive in Northern Ireland


Refugees burned by explosions are among 57 Syrians arriving in Northern Ireland on Thursday.

Others are disabled or in a wheelchair. Some could die if left to languish in Turkish camps near the border with their war-torn homeland, officials said.

Some were plumbers or bakers in their native land - forced by conflict to flee to new houses in Londonderry with barely a word of English.

Plane carrying the first group of Syrian refugees resettling in Northern Ireland arriving at Belfast International Airport

Denise Wright, a co-ordinator for the Refugee and Asylum Forum, said: "Most in the camps don't want to go to Europe. They want to go back to their homes again.

"This is a last resort for many. They are deciding they may never see other members of their family again.

"If they stay in camps they may not make it."

A bedroom in a welcome centre for the first group of Syrian refugees to resettle in Northern Ireland in 2015

This is the second group accepted in Northern Ireland as part of the UK-wide Syrian Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme to resettle around 20,000 by 2020.

The last intake was accepted from a camp near Beirut in Lebanon on December 15, before the snows of winter in Belfast.

A lot of the men had been abducted for ransom by combatants and beaten while being held; one victim did not know who kidnapped him.

Handmade cards from local school children which welcomed refugees last year

The most needy have been targeted for the resettlement programme - women and children, torture victims, those with significant medical needs.

Thursday's new arrivals are a mixture of Arabs, Kurds and Circassians, all Muslim.

The youngest is two and the oldest are aged in their mid-fifties. Several have university-level education.

They include 14 family groups and 20 children, three quarters school-aged.

All bar one family will be housed by the Housing Executive in Derry - one will go to the Greater Belfast area because a wheelchair user needs accessible accommodation.

On Thursday, they will be taken to a welcome centre in Belfast where they will be given legal advice and registered with the social security system.

They will spend five days there in an effort to introduce them to an alien environment gradually.

Toys, thermal clothes and sanitary products were among the items provided to refugees in 2015

All families will be permitted to remain in the UK for five years with the opportunity of attaining citizenship. They have passed all Home Office screening tests for criminality.

Members of the group are not allowed to stray across the border into the Republic. They will be eligible to claim benefits but will have to make the same efforts to find work as everybody else.

They can apply for dependent family members to join them in Northern Ireland but have not yet done so.