Refugees display their skills at event in Scarborough

Refugees brought handmade items showcasing their skills when more than 300 people gathered in North Yorkshire to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Refugee Week.

In North Yorkshire, 238 refugees - 50 families - have been resettled.

The event, organised by the Refugee Council, was held at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough and was attended by families, volunteers and North Yorkshire County Council and Scarborough Borough Council representatives. It provided an opportunity for the families, including children, to share their diverse skills and talents, including, dance, music and theatre.

There were stalls run by the families, a shadow puppetry performance, live music and dancing.

Councillor David Chance, the county council’s executive member for stronger communities and a Scarborough Borough councillor, said: "I found it both humbling and inspirational to see what our refugees in North Yorkshire have achieved since their arrival and to hear some of their stories.

"We are truly indebted to the volunteers within those communities who have befriended and helped them to settle so quickly, to learn language skills and to bring an added richness to the life of our communities."

Cheryl Govan, associate director at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, said: "The SJT team were delighted to play host to this wonderful event as part of Refugee Week 20. It was fantastic to see all the skills of our locally resettled refugees and to welcome everyone into our building to share their crafts, food and joy. It was a magnificent day."

Sarah Rollin, Refugee Council resettlement area manager for North Yorkshire, said: "We had always wanted to bring all the families across North Yorkshire together in some way, to celebrate their achievements and recognise the local volunteers in each area who have given tremendous support to refugee families. 

"Marking 20 years of Refugee Week seemed a fantastic opportunity to do this. For some refugee families they were meeting each other for the first time, sharing food and celebrating together.  Some had never seen the sea. These resettlement programmes offer protection to some of the most vulnerable refugees and it is wonderful to be part of one that supports families beginning to rebuild their lives and seeing hope for the future."

In North Yorkshire, 238 refugees - 50 families - have been resettled. Of these, 43 are Syrian families and seven are families from other war torn areas in the Middle East and North Africa being resettled under the vulnerable children’s resettlement scheme.

The refugees have been settled into the main towns in each district. The children and their schools have been assisted by the county council’s minority ethnic achievement service and many have made good progress. The council’s adult learning and skills service is providing regular English language classes for the adults to enable them to move towards independence and build new lives for themselves.

Some of the adults have become volunteers while others are finding employment. One refugee in Scarborough district, for example, has a job and has married a local woman.  

The county council continues to work closely with the Refugee Council and other local, regional and national agencies to ensure that the refugee resettlement in North Yorkshire is successful.

A video of the event can be viewed here.

This story was published 3 July 2018