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The voice of Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector

Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

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Charity’s anger after government nominates it to help refugees

This news post is over 8 years old

UK government names charity as point of contact for public wanting to home refugees. But charity says it wasn't consulted.

A charity has hit out at the government after it was officially named it as a point of contact for families wanting to house Syrian refugees.

Naccom, an umbrella group of small charities supporting refugees, was included in official Home Office literature advising members of the public who to contact to offer support.

However, the charity said it was not consulted before the guidance was published and said it was not equipped or had the resources to take on the work.

Dave Smith, Naccom’s coordinator, said the charity wasn’t working to find homes for Syrians as it was beyond its remit.

“The government didn’t even ask us. It’s a little bit invidious because they’re not funding us one penny, and they don’t want us to do what we are doing, in terms of supporting refused asylum seekers, because they want to send them back.

The government didn’t even ask us. It’s a little bit invidious because they’re not funding us one penny - Dave Smith

“And yet they are referring people to us for housing Syrians, which is not what we are actually about.

“We are a network of fairly small voluntary organisations, some of whom have no paid workers whatsoever, and there is no way we can cope.”

The Home Office has been responding to a deluge of offers from the public to house refugees ever since the media started reporting their predicament in the Mediterranean and in the Balkans, where many remain stranded.

While asylum charities have welcomed offers of assistance from the public they warn that much of it is misplaced, stemming from a poor understanding of how the asylum system operates.

Jean Demars of Praxis, which provides help to homeless migrants, said his charity had experienced a tenfold increase in offers of support.

“A lot of people want to connect on a human level, but it would be problematic if we were seen as replacing what the government should be doing,” he said.

“I wouldn’t take a referral from a government department. If you are there to provide that human element that isn’t in the government system, that’s fine, but replacing government services is not on the agenda.”

Charities would most likely face a logistical challenge in trying to rehome refugees, having to carry out character checks on people offering accommodation while individuals would have to be carefully matched.

Smith added: “The goodwill has been tremendous across the country – it’s from their heart and sometimes the head doesn’t even come into it because they don’t understand what the situation is, and some people just want to host Syrians now, for four weeks, which isn’t very realistic,” he said.