A COUNCIL is hoping to resettle up to 100 additional Syrian refugees in a bid to help more people rebuild their lives in the North-East.

Durham Humanitarian Support Partnership, which was formed in September 2015 in response to the Syrian refugee crisis, has already helped to resettle 92 people fleeing conflict.

Around 17 families are now living in County Durham through the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme.

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The partnership, which is chaired by Durham County Council, had initially pledged to home 200 people between 2016 and 2020, but is hoping to extend that to between 250 and 300.

Joanne Thorns, regional officer for North East Churches Acting Together, which is part of the partnership, said: “The crisis in Syria has shocked us, created millions of refugees, people who have nothing and needed our support. Many of us in the faith community wanted to help, and it has been a privilege for us to work with Durham County Council and others, to provide a welcome to the families and see them able to rebuild their lives in our local communities.

“The families have felt welcomed and the local communities have been enhanced by the friendships formed. We would like to thank the council for inviting us to work alongside them and hope we can continue to work together to welcome more vulnerable refugees to our communities.”

The first five Syrian families arrived in May 2016 and are living in the Durham area.

In November 2016 a further six families were housed in the south of the county and in June 2017 five families were rehoused in the north.

Arrangements are currently being made for the arrival of a further six families and the council is also supporting 10 children who have arrived in the UK as unaccompanied asylum seekers.

A report assessing the success of the programme is to be discussed by councillors at a meeting next week.

It says the first three phases have worked well, with refugees settling well in the county and reporting a high degree of satisfaction and appreciation for assistance provided.

It adds that neighbours and communities have extended a warm welcome, though some families have experienced some low level anti-social behaviour.

Cllr Joy Allen, cabinet member for transformation, said: “While everyone involved in the partnership was extremely keen to respond to the government’s request to support people fleeing violence in Syria, we recognised from the very beginning that we had limited experience in this area.

“However, by working together we have managed to establish a scheme that has proven very successful, providing a positive experience for refugees arriving in the county and being held up as a model of best practice."