Government finally recognises resettled Syrians as refugees

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22 Mar 2017

Syrians being resettled in Britain have finally been recognised as refugees by the UK Government.

The Home Office has today announced that Syrian refugees who are being resettled here will now be granted refugee status, which will enable Syrians to access university and to travel more easily to visit relatives in other European countries.

Previously, resettled Syrian refugees were given a special form of leave to remain called humanitarian protection which gave them slightly different rights to people with refugee status. Unlike other refugees, refugees with humanitarian protection faced practical barriers to overseas travel and to accessing university.

Until today, resettled Syrians faced a three year wait before being eligible for student finance, which put university out of reach of many people. They were also unable to apply for the same travel documents as other refugees which resulted in Syrians being unable to easily go abroad to visit their family in other countries.

The news follows concerted behind the scenes lobbying by the Refugee Council for resettled Syrians to have the same rights as people granted refugee status.

Responding to the announcement, Refugee Council Director of Advocacy Dr. Lisa Doyle said: "The Refugee Council is delighted that refugees from Syria have finally been recognised as such by the Government. This news will open the door to university for thousands of Syrian refugees and enable people to be able to visit their loved ones in other countries.

"It’s never been enough for the Government’s resettlement programme to enable Syrian refugees to simply survive, and everyone stands to benefit from allowing refugees to thrive, integrate into British life and achieve their full potential.”

 

A timeline of our work to build momentum in Parliament

October 2015

We give evidence to:

International Development Select Committee inquiry on the Government's response to the Syrian refugee crisis

Home Affairs Select Committee inquiry into the European migration crisis

January 2016

Briefing for Westminster Hall debate on resettlement of Syrian refugees (27 January)

October 2016

We give evidence to:

Public Accounts Committee inquiry on the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Programme

Briefing for on Access to support for students recognised as needing protection, Higher Education and Research Bill, Committee Stage, House of Commons (18 October 2016) - joint briefing with Student Action for Refugees, Coram Children's Legal Centre, the National Union of Students, and the UK Council for International Student Affairs.

January 2017

Briefing for on Access to support for students recognised as needing protection, Higher Education and Research Bill, Committee Stage, House of Lords (25 January) - joint briefing with Student Action for Refugees, Coram Children's Legal Centre, the National Union of Students, and the UK Council for International Student Affairs.

March 2017

Briefing for on Access to support for students recognised as needing protection, Higher Education and Research Bill, House of Lords Report Stage (13 March 2017) - joint briefing with Immigration Law Practitioners' Association, Student Action for Refugees, Coram Children's Legal Centre, the National Union of Students, and the UK Council for International Student Affairs.

Amro is a Syrian refugee who has been resettled in the UK. Amro fled to Lebanon from Syria, but discovered that in Lebanon his Syrian high school diploma didn’t allow him to go to university straight away. He had to study for 45 days to gain the Lebanese equivalent and managed to cover the entire curriculum in that time. Amro was then able to gain a place at a Lebanese university to study media and journalism.

During the second year of this degree, Amro and his family were resettled to the UK and Refugee Council staff began helping the family settle into their new lives in safety.

Amro immediately told us that he was keen to carry on with his studies at a university in the UK. However, because Amro had humanitarian protection rather than refugee status, he faced a frustrating three year wait before being able to qualify for financial support.

Earlier this year, Amro told us: "I am waiting for a scholarship. It’s my only hope. To wait and apply for a loan after three years is not an option. I don’t want to wait until I’m 27 years old. I really want to start studying this year...If I were in Lebanon, I would’ve graduated before those three years."

Today’s news means that Amro and thousands of other Syrian refugees will now be able to access university and begin rebuilding their lives.

From 1 July 2017, the Government has said it will be granting those admitted under the Vulnerable Person's Relocation Scheme and the Vulnerable Children's Resettlement Scheme refugee status and five years’ limited leave. Those who have been resettled under these programmes before this date will be given the opportunity to make a request to change their status from Humanitarian Protection to refugee status. The Home Office has promised to publish more information on how individuals can do this 'in due course'.