Refugees share nerves about "how people would look at me" after move to Somerset

  • Charlotte Gay went to meet the Omer family in Taunton

A family from Syria has told ITV West Country how they found settling into Somerset after being granted refugee status.

It comes as Somerset County Council is preparing to welcome up to 10 Afghan refugee families to the county after thousands fled their home country this summer.

Aheen Omer has been living in Taunton with her family since 2018, and was initially worried if she "would be forced" to take her hijab off.

She said, "I thought everyone was looking at me but after a while I noticed there was nothing of that and people were excited about knowing me."

The Omer family was forced to leave Syria after the civil war broke out in 2011. They then spent six years living in camps in Iraq before being resettled in the UK.

Now studying for a foundation degree in Art and Design at Bath Spa University, Aheen said everybody is very "kind" and her education has given her the freedom to discover what she enjoys.

The Omer family at a family celebration in Taunton Credit: Doug Lowe

The world was shocked by the desperate scenes at Kabul Airport in August as people scrambled to leave before western troops pulled out, and two months since the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan.

Thinking of those soon to arrive in their new homes in Somerset, Aheen said there will be lots of questions about how life works in the UK but "in the beginning they will only want to be in a safe place," she added.

Aheen's sister Shereen said she found it hard to get on with every day life with language barriers and cultural differences.

She said at times she felt "helpless" and "things that got me down like the language or when you get a letter or email but you really don't know what to do about them."

Their brother Omer Ali said after three years of living in Somerset they are "still learning from people" but most people are very helpful and patient.

"99% of people will help you even if you don't speak english."

Omer Ali started his own videography business after studying at Strode College Credit: ITV News

Somerset County Council is co-ordinating 10 properties, owned by private landlords, for interpreters and their families who have fled Afghanistan.

Council leader David Fothergill said these refugees are not 'jumping the queue' for social housing.

"By using the private landlords, by making sure we've got capacity in the schools, capacity in the health service we're making sure we're not disrupting local people in that sense but we're bringing them in and offering them the very best of support that we can."

The County Council is still looking for landlords to house refugee families as more will be resettled in the county in 2022.