REFUGEES fleeing war zones, violence and persecution will continue to be welcomed to west Cheshire, the council has confirmed.

More than 20 Syrian families have begun new lives in the borough in recent years as part of the Syrian Vulnerable Person Resettlement Programme.

The programme ended on March 31 and a new resettlement scheme to welcome anyone fleeing violence or persecution from other countries was due to launch on April 1, but this was postponed at the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

Cheshire West and Chester Council says it will continue to welcome and support people like Falak and Midia, who moved to the borough as part of the scheme.

Falak said: “When we came to the UK we were supported, and now I want to give back and help other people.

“My English has improved a lot since I started volunteering and it gives me hope and strength to keep going with my life.”

Midia, who crossed the border from Syria feeling ‘terrified’ for her life after she was forced to escape, added: “I am working hard to understand my new life and learn the new language.

“I live with the hope that one day I will see my family again, but for now we keep in touch using video calls, which is not the same.”

Cllr Richard Beacham, cabinet member for housing, regeneration and growth, said: “Following our experiences with the resettlement programme, the council and its partners have become well equipped to help refugees to integrate into our community, such as offering housing, employment, financial and language support.

“It is wonderful that Syrian people are feeling happier and more settled. It is important that we are able to continue to provide refuge for people facing persecution around the world.

“I would also like to put on record my thanks to the residents who have been working closely with our services to support refugees and advocate on their behalf.”

Julia Nundy, operations manager for Sanctuary Housing which is a key partner in the resettlement scheme, said: “Our social purpose is to provide homes for those who need them, and we’re proud to play an active role supporting the refugee resettlement programme in Cheshire.

“We believe everyone should have a safe place to live. The programme has made a real difference for these families, helping them to settle in our communities and begin new lives.”