Archbishop of Canterbury takes in Syrian refugee family

Amber Rudd and Justin Welby Image copyright PA
Image caption New Home Secretary Amber Rudd launched the scheme with Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby

A Syrian family taken in by the UK are living in an empty cottage in the grounds of Lambeth Palace, the Archbishop of Canterbury has said.

Justin Welby said it was an "enormous privilege" to house the family, as he helped launch a Home Office scheme to encourage community groups to sponsor refugee families coming to the country.

Churches, charities and businesses have been asked to offer support.

The UK has said it will take in 20,000 vulnerable refugees from Syria by 2020.

Launched by Mr Welby and new Home Secretary Amber Rudd, the scheme is designed to make it easier for churches, charities, faith groups and businesses to help support refugees attempting to restart their lives in the UK.

Under the new scheme, refugees arriving in the UK can be directly sponsored by community groups, which would meet them at the airport, provide housing for them and help them settle into their new lives.

A website has been set up by the Home Office to enable businesses and individuals to donate to refugees.

Last year, then Prime Minister David Cameron announced that Britain would take in 20,000 of the most vulnerable refugees from Syria by 2020.

So far, 1,800 have arrived and been resettled.

Asma's story

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The UK is to take 20,000 refugees from Syria, where cities such as Homs have suffered severe damage

Asma was once a successful architect living what she describes as a "fancy life."

And then one day it all - quite literally - came crashing down.

She had gone out to the shops in the Syrian city of Homs when a missile hit her home, killing her entire family.

"My house was destroyed. All my family were inside. When you lose everything and have to start again in a new country, it's not easy," she said.

Asma came to the UK under the Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme, and now lives in Bradford where she is trying to get the qualifications she needs to start work.

Her training is funded by World Jewish Relief, the British Jewish community's international development agency.

Treasured humans

The sponsorship scheme is backed by Mr Welby, who became its first official sponsor when he took in a Syrian family.

He said the family were "treasured human beings" who deserved the opportunity to flourish.

"It is an enormous privilege to welcome a family to live in a cottage on the grounds of Lambeth Palace.

"The scheme is a way of ensuring that those who come are surrounded by love and concern and support. Many of them come with deep trauma," he added.

Ms Rudd, who used her first public appearance as home secretary to launch the scheme, added: "The response of the British public to the refugee crisis has been one of overwhelming generosity and many have been moved to make kind offers of assistance."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The Home Office scheme would allow community groups to sponsor a refugee family

She denied it was a way of getting the community to pick up the tab for the refugees.

"It's not about cutting costs. It's about making sure that families who come here really are welcomed," she said.

The West London Synagogue of British Jews - which has a tradition of helping refugees - is one of the organisations now planning to host a Syrian family.

"This seems to me a good way forward," Rabbi Neil Janes said.

Referring to the racist attacks and "toxic environment" that have followed the EU referendum, he added: "I think most of British society wants to help the most vulnerable. It's only a minority who are creating a difficult climate."

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