Fresh Start - North Lanarkshire

North Lanarkshire has once again opened its arms to refugees with the launch of Fresh Start, North Lanarkshire, a new initiative designed to help Syrian and other families rebuild their lives in Scotland.

North Lanarkshire was the only Scottish local authority to welcome Congolese refugees back in 2007, providing those families with the opportunity for a fresh start. Now the region has once again welcomed new neighbours with open arms and its renowned friendly Scottish hospitality. A number of Syrian families arrived in November last year and further families are expected over the course of the coming year, as part of Scotland’s contribution to helping address the Syrian refugee crisis.

An excellent partnership has built up around the local Syrian Integration Group consisting of community organisations across Airdrie and Coatbridge, the Third Sector, Voluntary Action North Lanarkshire (VANL)and North Lanarkshire Council, and has been testament to the strong cohesive communities in North Lanarkshire.

North Lanarkshire has shown itself to be a warm and caring community, evident through the vast support that has been given to the newly-arrived families through donations, commitment and befriending programmes. This has helped them settle into their new homes, and has also helped the wider community learn a little more about their new neighbours.

The outpouring of goodwill inspired the Integration Group to explore whether the efforts and lessons learned over recent months and years could be developed into a local voluntary organisation supporting diversified communities and all minority ethnic and new migrant communities in the area.

 “Fresh Start, North Lanarkshire - welcoming our new neighbours” is the result, and the new organisation has pledged to recognise the richness in cultural diversity and to promote equality and integration within and between communities. It aims to involve local people and organisations to take positive action to address poverty, discrimination and promote social inclusion for refugees, minority ethnic and new migrant communities arriving in North Lanarkshire.

The organisation is in its early days and could not have been formed without the commitment of community organisations in Airdrie and Coatbridge and the invaluable support of North Lanarkshire Council, and VANL.

North Lanarkshire based community organisations or any individuals committed to the aims of “Fresh Start, North Lanarkshire” and interested in becoming members, please contact Judith Bremner at Voluntary Action North Lanarkshire (VANL) on 01236 748011 or email judith.bremner@vanl.co.uk. The group would like to encourage a wide geographical spread of membership to ensure it is inclusive of all communities in North Lanarkshire.

Kenny Moffat, CEO of Voluntary Action North Lanarkshire, said “This is a welcome development and shows the strong commitment and partnership working between North Lanarkshire Council, the Third Sector and local communities to not only ensure the effective resettlement of Syrian Refugees, but also to ensure this is continued for other people coming into North Lanarkshire”.
Councillor Pat O’Rourke, Chairperson, Syrian Resettlement Programme Member Officer Working Group added “I am delighted to celebrate the establishment of such a valuable organisation in North Lanarkshire who are not only keen to welcome refugees to the area but also people from different places across the world to settle in our community. This development is also evidence of the exceptional work local community groups and other volunteers have been doing in partnership with the Council and other agencies to support the integration of refugees into our communities here in North Lanarkshire. Community support and participation is critical to the success of the resettlement programme”