Another 30 refugees are set to be welcomed to North Ayrshire with councillors expected to approve expanding the resettlement scheme beyond Syria.

The final Syrians from this resettlement programme will be in homes by March 2020 – meaning the council has supported more than 200 people since the first families arrived five years ago.

Now as part of a new UK-wide programme, the council will provide a safe haven for a further 30 refugees (six families) by March 2021.

The new scheme will be open to refugees identified by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to be in need of resettlement to the UK because of their vulnerability. The scheme does not have a specific geographical focus.

At a forthcoming meeting of Cabinet on Tuesday, councillors are expected to approve the latest proposals.

Councillor Joe Cullinane, Leader of North Ayrshire Council, said: “Last week I got the opportunity to meet and spend some quality time with Syrian families who have resettled in North Ayrshire. It was heart-warming experience, listening to the personal stories they had about the relationships they had built with neighbours and the welcome they have received from our communities.

“These families have been on a journey that we just cannot imagine. And they are still on it. The young people are flourishing in our schools and starting to

think about future career choices and the adults are so keen to contribute to their community through volunteering and securing employment.

“The council teams who support these families deserve huge credit for the work they have done and continue to do and I want to thank them for that.

“Our decision to participate in the resettlement programme is borne from our values of fairness and equity 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.

“Over the last four years we’ve seen 41 Syrian families arrive and they have been welcomed with open arms by our communities who have helped them settle and integrate. That is a huge credit to the people of North Ayrshire and we can’t thank them enough. I know the welcome will be no different for the six new families who come to North Ayrshire over the next year.

“I said last August, and I repeat today, that 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.”

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