COUNCILLORS have backed a proposal to welcome Syrian refugees to Malvern.
Malvern Hills District Council approved the idea last week and will now hold further talks with neighbouring councils and various organisations with a view to welcoming up to 12 families to the area next year.
It would be part of the UK’s response to the humanitarian crisis in Syria which has caused an estimated three million people to flee the country since civil war broke out in 2011.
In January the Government introduced the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Refugee scheme inviting local councils to sign up.
Coun Julian Roskams jointly proposed the move in Malvern with fellow Democratic councillor John Raine and argued it would be a fitting way to mark 100 years since the town welcomed 500 Belgian refugees during the First World War.
He said: “What better way could there be of marking this centenary than to reach out to those innocent victims of today’s terrible conflict in the Middle East and thereby continue this country’s proud tradition, which stretches centuries, of receiving refugees.
“What better way of showing how much we cherish our freedoms than by extending those freedoms to those who are subject in their countries of birth to unjust imprisonment and torture.
“Asylum seekers are not economic migrants. Refugees are forced to leave their country because they are at risk of or have experienced persecution.
“The main concern of refugees is for their safety not economic advantage. They leave behind their homes, most or all of their belongings, family members and friends.
“Some are forced to flee with no warning and many have experienced significant trauma or been tortured or otherwise ill-treated.”
Malvern Hills Amnesty International has also backed the proposal.
Dr Trevor Trueman from the group said Britain had contributed £700million to aid the Syrian plight but had only welcomed fewer than 100 refugees into the country so far which he described as ‘woefully inadequate’.
“The stumbling block is that this resettlement of some of the world’s most vulnerable families will only take place if local councils volunteer to house the refugees. Malvern can be proud to do its part in helping to deal with one of the greatest humanitarian crises of our times.”