Churches in Inverness have appealed for local help to accommodate and welcome Syrian refugees who are due to arrive in the Highlands.
The local authority has agreed to provide homes for about 100 people in 30 families.
Inverness Presbytery’s church and society committee convener Vivian Roden said accommodation in the Inverness area was urgently required, although she acknowledged that there was already “incredible pressure on housing services within Highland at present”.
Reports have suggested that the housing may be available for the refugees in the Caithness area, but Mrs Roden queried whether such a move was appropriate.
“Living in a remote, rural area, they might not be able to access the services they need,” she suggested.
“Refugees also need somewhere to get together for support. This may also be harder in rural areas, but unless sufficient accommodation can be found in the Inverness area, the refugees will have to be housed in Caithness.”
Mrs Roden appealed for those with second homes, or empty “granny flats”, to consider allowing their use for refugee families.
She said: “People would not be expected to give up their holiday homes or other accommodation free of charge. The refugees would be entitled to housing benefit and would therefore be able to pay rent.”
She added that the area also required people who could provide a “Greeter Service” for the refugees.
“The ‘greeters’ would help the new arrivals with things like accessing public transport, where to buy food, providing language help and introducing them to the police, which is important, since their experience of police in their homelands may be very different to our Scottish police force,” she said.
“They might advise how to get a job, how to get their children into school, which are the best play parks, even which pubs not to go to and so forth.
“It’s basically a matter of imparting local knowledge and helping to make the newcomers feel at home.
“This would not be paid, although volunteer expenses would be met.”