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Herne Hill celebrates success of refugee settlement scheme as 300 show their support for the family

An event to celebrate successful settlement of refugee family in Herne Hill was attended by hundreds last week.

The celebration, held at Herne Hill’s Baptist Church on May 8 and organised by volunteer group Herne Hill Welcomes Refugees, saw more than 300 turnout in support of the Iraqi family that moved in last December after living in appalling conditions in Lebanon.

The resettlement came after a two-year campaign from volunteers keen to see them relocated to south London as part of the government’s community sponsorship scheme for refugees.

Set up in 2016, this programme enables communities to put themselves forward as a suitable place for resettlement by showing they have a plan to welcome and integrate the family.

After reading about it, residents formed the group Herne Hill Welcomes Refugees, and after a year-long application process were notified by the Home Office their bid had been successful.

The family is said to be settling in well and has made many friends. They were given a standing ovation at the event.

On top of having to find affordable housing and raise £9,000 to offer financial support, the volunteers also had to show they could befriend the family, help them with their language skills and give support as they move into education and work, and gain the backing of Lambeth Council.

The group says plans to support a second family are now already underway, with more volunteer groups working towards the same goal across Southwark.

Helen Hayes, who spoke at the event, described it as “such a special evening” and said it had been a privilege to share their journey so far, while Anna Burton, chair of Herne Hill Welcomes Refugees, described the turnout as incredible.

“I’m overwhelmed at the support we’ve had from our community and honoured to be a part of it,” she said.

“Thank you to everyone for coming and extra special thanks to the inspiring members of Herne Hill Welcomes Refugees.”

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