United Kingdom: Local authorities started supporting Syrians under national resettlement scheme

A young Syrian refugee carries his brother across the border between Greece and Macedonia, near Eidomeni, Greece.

Refugees and migrants line up to board a night ferry from the Greek island of Kos to Athens.

The UK government had committed to resettle up to 20,000 refugees from the Syrian region over the next five years. Local authorities, which are key partners in delivering this goal, have accomplished the resettlement of 1,000 Syrian refugees in the UK so far, under the Vulnerable Person Resettlement (VPR) Scheme; the programme that sets out the requirements which have to be fulfilled, from point of arrival through to the longer term. The national government has provided guidance to both local authorities and the Voluntary sector – another important partner – on what they can do to help.

Considering that involvement in the scheme by local authorities is voluntary, the ones that lack experience of resettling refugees are advised to think carefully about whether they have the infrastructure and support networks needed to ensure appropriate care and support to refugees, and to consult those who do have the necessary experience in other areas. The arrangement is that the Home Office will pass cases to a local authority which has asked to participate in the scheme, describing information on family situation, age and specific needs. The latter is free to accept or reject it. A detailed cost estimate is to be provided when a case is accepted.

Participating local authorities receive funding for the refugee’s resettlement costs (excluding economic integration) for the first 12 months. The government has earmarked a further £130 million budget until 2019-20 to contribute to the costs of supporting refugees up to their fifth year. This includes an ‘extreme cases’ fund that will assist with high cost cases. The Local Government Association (LGA), umbrella body of local authorities in England and Wales, which has also provided guidance on the implications for its members within VPR the scheme, is concerned about the level of funding and has asked for a review after 18 months.

The government hopes to achieve an equitable distribution across the country with the VPR Programme. Although refugees are informed that they could be resettled anywhere in the UK, they are also free to move elsewhere. But if they do so, they will no longer be entitled to accommodation nor any asylum specific support. There are nevertheless doubts whether refugees will want to remain in some of the remoter parts of the country in which they are being hosted.

Refugees resettled under the VPR scheme are given five years’ Humanitarian Protection status, with permission to work and access public funds. Syrians who reach the UK can claim asylum and 87% of initial asylum decisions in Syrian cases were given permission to remain in the UK, reveals the Research report from House of Commons published in December 2015.

The UK government does not intend to accept any refugees already in Europe for settlement nor to participate in any relocation scheme developed by the EU.

European Web Site On Integration

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