Syrian refugee family given home thanks to generosity of Muswell Hill landlords
PUBLISHED: 11:34 30 January 2017 | UPDATED: 11:34 30 January 2017
© Dieter Perry
A Syrian family who fled their war torn country can now rebuild their lives after two Muswell Hill landlords offered them a home.
Khaled and Sheghaf Shabook and their two-year old daughter Dania have been re-housed by landlords Atia and Mash Hafezjee, in an empty flat they own in Tottenham.
Now the Hafezjees, of Cranley Gardens, who run a lettings agency are appealing for others with vacant properties to follow their example.
Refugees Mr and Mrs Shabook, who now live safely in the two-bedroom Tottenham flat, bravely shared their story at an open house event in on Thursday night, organised by the Muswell Hill Methodist Church (MHMC)and Citizen’s UK.
The couple fled Aleppo a year ago, heading to Turkey. Khaled, a former bank manager, came to England soon afterwards, followed by his architect wife and daughter two months ago.
He said: “Life is much better now we have found a home. We lived four years in the crisis in Aleppo, with a lot of fear and not feeling safe. We had little water to drink and no electricity, it was not a suitable place for my daughter to grow up.”
He said when he arrived in the UK, he was given a room in a hostel in Leeds which became unsuitable once his family had secured a visa to join him.
He added: “I struggled to find a home because nobody accept me because I am not working now, I am on housing benefit. Suddenly one day I make a connection with Atia. Now I have a home here in London and I have a chance to get a job.”
Shegaf, who left her injured sister and brothers in Aleppo, added: “We have a new life here where we can feel safe, my daughter can go to nursery. I am looking to do a masters degree in Urban Design so one day I can go home and rebuild my country. Thank you Atia.”
Landlady Atia Hafezjee, a former teacher, said she was shocked by a trip to Calais to help out in a school.
“It was a shack, not a school, it was really disturbing for me. The children were so scared and alone,” she said.
“There are stereotypes here that we must change that refugees are here to take our jobs, our money. The first landlord I had to convince was my husband, depending on whether we had a property available.”
She contacted a number of refugee charities asking how they could help someone.
She added: “I don’t think people are aware of how easy this is for landlords. As a landlord you can measure your success with pounds you are saving but now you can measure success by how many lives you are saving.”
Representatives from Citizen’s UK and Haringey Council, who were present at the event, called for more private landlords to help refugees currently living in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan through new government resettlement schemes.
The host, Paul Eedle, from MHMC, one of the first groups in the UK to volunteer for a Home Office sponsored Full Community Sponsorship scheme, to help refugees, said: “This evening is an example of how rewarding helping refugees can be for landlords. How do we work with the private rented sector to address this humanitarian issue?”
Roy Dunbar, from Homes for Haringey, who worked on resettling refugees for Camden Council, added: “Haringey is trying to place 10 families at the moment and the biggest problem is appealing to landlords with a social heart.
“If you come to us, we’ll have a look at the property then the Home Office will inspect it, and we will guarantee the rent. As a landlord coming on board, the council can guarantee the rent and you will have a tenant who really appreciates what you are doing.”