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Nine-year-old Syrian girl who lost family in bomb among first refugees to arrive

A nine-year-old girl who was injured when she was caught up in a bomb explosion which killed several relatives will be among the first intake of Syrian refugees to arrive in the Armagh and Craigavon areas.

A media briefing – organised by the Department of Communities – was held at Craigavon Civic Centre this morning (Tuesday), ahead of their arrival next week.

This will be the third group of Syrian refugees who are being resettled in Northern Ireland under the UK Government’s Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme (VPRS).

Previous intakes have been housed in Belfast and Derry/Londonderry.

The new arrivals will be taking up accommodation in Armagh and Craigavon and plans are currently being put in place.

Armagh I revealed earlier this months plans for the Syrian refugees’ arrival here.

They will be taken next week to a welcome centre in Belfast.

Ian Snowden is the chairman of the operational group responsible for the resettlement of refugees in Northern Ireland.

He provided an insight into the process and details of the new arrivals.

In all, 13 family groups – comprising a total of 57 refugees – will be coming to this borough. Of that number, 25 are school age children.

Mr Snowden said they will be taken to the welcome centre in Belfast, adding: “It will give them the chance to rest and relax after the journey they have had to Northern Ireland.”

While there, they will also undergo assessments and receive advice on life in Northern Ireland, as well as adapting and services available to them.

“After the four days we will be moving them to their new homes in the Craigavon and Armagh areas,” explained Mr Snowden.

He said that many of those refugees who had already arrived in Northern Ireland had “very dark back stories” to tell. Many had been abducted, beaten and tortured.

Mr Snowden said: “One of the first family groups first to arrive in Northern Ireland, their house was destroyed in a bomb attack and they had to walk for three days through the desert to get to Jordan to the safety of a camp.”

Very often, he said, those stories do not come to light until the refugees arrive.

But he did speak of a similar tale which involved a child of primary school age who is due to be housed locally.

“Amongst this group coming in is a nine-year-old girl who was caught up in a bomb explosion on her own home which killed several members of her family, including her grandmother and some uncles,” explained Mr Snowden.

“She’s got some injuries to her arms and legs which will probably require some medical attention when she gets here.”

The new arrivals will be rehome in the Armagh and Craigavon areas towards the end of next week.

Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council has been assisting the Department of Communities ahead of their arrival, and the Northern Ireland Housing Executive working to find suitable accommodation.

Local people wishing to make gifts of a practical nature can contact the council on (0300) 0300 900.

Monetary donations can also be made via the charities Barnardo’s, Save The Children and Red Cross, who have been involved in the effort to help the refugees after they arrive.

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