A COUNCILLOR is demanding NAC chiefs assure residents that they won’t be pushed to the back of the housing queue after they vowed to rehome more Syrian refugees.

Conservative Councillor Tom Marshall says while his party supports North Ayrshire Council’s pledge to take in another 40 refugees, he wants to make sure that the move will not mean less council houses for native residents.

Cllr Marshall’s comments come following NAC’s promise to find homes for more refugees at Tuesday’s cabinet meeting – taking the total number now living in North Ayrshire to more than 200.

Cllr Marshall said: “While generally welcoming the proposal to welcome new Syrian refugees to North Ayrshire we would like to be assured that this will not have a deleterious effect on the many thousands of applicants still on the council house waiting list.

"We understand that COSLA has agreed that the current commitment is to settle 2000 refugees and note that NAC now propose to settle a total of 200 refugees - 10 per cent of the Scottish total.

“We wish the new people well and trust that they will integrate as well as the previous refugees “

Council chiefs are keen to support to Syrians caught up in the humanitarian crisis in their trouble-hit homeland.

North Ayrshire Council was one of the first Scottish local authorities to respond to an urgent request from the UK Government and COSLA in 2015 to help provide safety and sanctuary for those displaced from Syria.

The latest Syrians are expected to be in homes by March. 2020 – meaning the Council has supported over 200 since the resettlement programme began four years ago.

Councillor Joe Cullinane, Leader of NAC, said: “Fairness and equity are at the core of what North Ayrshire Council is about and these values know no international borders.

“The refugee crisis, with the displacement of millions of families caused by war and conflict across the globe, is one of the biggest moral and humanitarian challenges of our time.

“We are proud of our resettlement programme which has given a second chance at life to Syrians who have experienced things that are unimaginable to you and I.

“I am absolutely delighted to welcome the Syrian families into North Ayrshire. The transition for them can be hard but, as a Council, we have worked extremely hard to make sure they feel welcome and secure in their new homes.

“This is a joint effort from our partners across North Ayrshire and various teams within the council who provide assistance and support to the families.

“But I must personally thank the people of North Ayrshire and our close-knit communities who have made them feel very welcome. Our communities know that these are people – people who are in desperate need of protection, support and love. You have welcomed them into our community and helped them integrate. I know there will be a vocal minority on social media who oppose our humanitarian efforts but I also know that the majority will welcome our new families with love, care and kindness over the coming months and for that I am eternally grateful.”

To date, the council has accommodated 31 Syrian families, a total of 150 refugees – 56 Adults and 94 children. More are set to move in next month and then the final 40 Syrians will arrive in North Ayrshire over the following six months.

All children of school age are engaged in education and adults receive language tuition; English for speakers of other languages (ESOL) is provided by the Council.

The council’s employability and skills service will continue to support the Syrians to develop their language and vocational skills to support them to move into further education, training and or employment.

The Resettlement Programme is funded entirely from Home Office grant funding.

The SNP’s Councillor Tony Gurney, Shadow Cabinet Member for Place, said:“As the Cabinet paper acknowledges, this resettlement programme was commenced under the SNP administration in 2015.

“We wholeheartedly continue to support this programme and we welcome the proposal to further increase the numbers to be welcomed to North Ayrshire.

"The ongoing war in Syria continues to put innocent families at risk and it is heartwarming to see displaced families settling so well in our midst.

“This is primarily a humanitarian issue however the Council has a long term goal of overturning a declining population so that we grow our workforce and build our local economy.“The training and support provided to the families will ensure that they can make a positive contribution.”