VOLUNTEERS hoping to resettle a refugee family from war-torn Syria have criticised a Welsh authority who they claim have delayed the process.

Croeso Penarth is leading efforts to bring a family currently living in a United Nations refugee camp to Penarth  so they can rebuild their lives which were torn apart by war.

But the volunteers claim Vale of Glamorgan Council is delaying this process and that it means a family is spending longer in the refugee camp than they need to.

Vale of Glamorgan Council has denied this.

Croeso Penarth wants to bring a family – which has yet to be selected – through a community resettlement scheme run by the Home Office and the UN. But before this can happen the council has to approve Croeso Penarth’s application.

Croeso Penarth say it submitted its application, which was supported by Citizens UK in January,  and that since then the council has taken a number of months to assess the application.

Amy Da Silva, from Croeso Penarth, said: “It’s putting a lot of financial pressure on us as a group financially. We’re so driven behind what this scheme is about and getting a family out of this terrible situation.

“It’s really upsetting to think it’s being delayed so long and a family is enduring more time in that camp than they need to.”

She said resettlement schemes in other areas have taken between two and six weeks to get local authority approval.

Croeso Penarth hopes the refugee family can be resettled in Penarth by the end of the year, and has pledged to support their integration into the community by helping them access language lessons, join local clubs and find work.

Four families were resettled in the Vale in 2016/17- including nine adults and 10 children. In 2017/18, the authority pledged to receive four families but just two – made up of four adults and six children – were resettled.

A meeting of the council on Wednesday, April 25 heard that arrangements are being made with the Home Office for the remaining two families to be received by June this year and that the council has secured two affordable homes for them.

Stephen Doughty, MP for Cardiff South and Penarth, asked Prime Minister Theresa May during a Commons debate on Monday, April 16 whether councils should do more to resettle Syrian refugees.

He said: “Given that we can neither be in a situation where we fire and forget, we can neither be in a situation where we simply debate and talk and forget. Can I ask the  Prime Minister what is her comprehensive political, diplomatic and humanitarian strategy to protect civilians in Syria—not just one-off military actions?

“Will she agree with me that councils around the country, including Vale of Glamorgan Council in my own constituency, need to do much more to support the resettlement of Syrian refugees under the resettlement programme, which they are currently not doing?”

Mrs May replied: “Certainly. There are two areas in which I would say in which we will undertake this diplomatic and political process. The first is in relation to the use of chemical weapons, and it is following up on the military action that has taken place within a number of international forums

“As I said, there have already been comments coming out of the European Foreign Affairs Council and the Gulf Co-operation Council, and we will be discussing this with a number of leaders around the world as to how we can re-establish the international norm prohibiting the use of chemical weapons. That is one strand of activity we will undertake.

“The other is the full support we will continue to give to the United Nations process in trying to find a solution to what is happening in Syria. We support the Staffan de Mistura, the United Nations envoy’s work that he is doing in that area. We hope that the Geneva process can be reignited and that we can see the parties coming together around the table to find a genuine solution. But it does mean not just all the parties in Syria themselves but actually the backers of the parties in Syria being willing to do that as well.”

Later in the debate, Mr Doughty said: “I have mentioned the situation of councils and what they can do. I am disappointed that when efforts are being made by a group called Croeso Penarth in my own constituency to house Syrian refugees they’re finding that  frustrated by the local council.”

Vale of Glamorgan council leader John Thomas said his authority is not deliberately obstructing the process.

He told Wednesday’s full council meeting: “I am extremely disappointed with the language used by Stephen Doughty MP in his statement to Parliament – which implies that the authority has deliberately sought to obstruct a community sponsorship application from Croeso Penarth.

“I remind members that the authority is duty bound to ensure that each application is sufficient  and sustainable, and that the needs of the vulnerable refugees can be fully met over the long-term  before it can consent to an application progressing further.

“This obligation is set out clearly in the guidance issued to local authorities in pursuance of assessing each community sponsorship application. Each submission must be assessed on a case-by-case basis, allowing for regional differences.

“The authority accounts both for the demands on local resources and the capacity of its statutory service providers. In this regard the authority has made every effort to  expedite the due diligence required to consent – and there has been no deliberate attempt to frustrate the process – despite the allegation.”

Mr Thomas added: “This authority is fully and positively committed to assisting Syrian families, having already provided refuge for six families and  a commitment to provide additional units this year.  We welcome the efforts of our community partners to increase that provision, but we must ensure that such schemes are sustainable and  that services are available to provide the necessary support for those families.”

Mr Thomas said a draft application sent to the Home Office by Citizens UK “mistakenly stated that consent had already been given.” 

“This incorrect assertion has placed considerable pressure on the authority from the community sponsors and Citizens UK and is not consistent with the collaborative partnership approach envisaged by the Home Office,” he said.

The group denies the claims that the council had given consent. 

Mr Thomas said council officers met with Croeso Penarth and that the council’s cabinet should make a decision on the application “very soon.”