A COUNCIL was praised yesterday for employing common sense
after giving homes earmarked for asylum seekers to flood
Last November, Cumbria County Council announced that 30
families fleeing Syria had been selected for re-housing in
the Lake District having been selected from camps in
Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon.
But since then dozens of families from flood-battered
Kendal, in Cumbria, have been forced from their own homes
due to the torrential rain caused by Storm Desmond.
Now the crisis-hit council has been granted a Government
exemption from a requirement to house Syrian families – as
it insists it needs all its available homes for those in
dire need that were hit by the last month’s catastrophic
Yesterday Daily Express columnist and former Tory minister
Ann Widdecombe praised the council for putting it’s
struggling taxpaying residents first.
She said: “This is a positive and perfectly sensible move
by the Government to help victims of the terrible floods in
the Lake District.
“It is right and proper that Cumbria County Council be
given exemption from the refugee quota because of the
pressing needs of the people made homeless by the floods.
“It is good to see that the Government recognises their
needs and is prepared to act.”
A county council spokesman said: “Before the floods Cumbria
was among the first to offer assistance to Syrian refugees.
“To date, all the refugees that have come to the UK have
been successfully allocated to other parts of the country.
“We will keep this situation under review but obviously
since the floods our focus has to be on supporting our own
communities through these difficult times.”
The council has already issued a plea for more offers of
“affordable” rented accommodation in the area to help the
SLDC has offers of temporary accommodation it can use to
re-house people in places about 15 miles away – like
Ambleside and Grasmere.
But local Methodist Church community worker Jonny Gios said
the families in greatest need have no transport of their
own and must stay in Kendal to get children to school and
He said: “These are people who have lost virtually
“We have upwards of 30 families on our database who need
help and, for various reasons they need to stay in the
Mr Onions said: “Together with other pressures that the
councils are all facing at the moment, it means that we
cannot accept refugees for the foreseeable future.
“We are going to review this position in March to establish
at what stage the county will be in a position to accept
“Nonetheless we are not likely to see refugees in Cumbria
until July 2016.
Yesterday Matthew Connolly, of Refugee Support and
Sanctuary Cumbria (ReSSCu) – a group committed to helping
refugees in the region – admitted the response made sense.
He said: “I totally understand that there is now a local
crisis which eclipses what is happening internationally.
“After the floods we need to lick our wounds and sort
ourselves out first.
“But as someone who has been working hard to help refugees,
I want the message to be that we are still on the case and
will not give up.
“I worry now that the atmosphere of welcome that was
building up for people from Syria has changed.
“But I also believe there is still a real groundswell of
compassion for refugees and so we will keep working to make
sure people come here.”