New figures published today reveal the UK has resettled just 50 refugees from Syria since it announced its Vulnerable Person’s Relocation (VPR) scheme in January.
The figures, released by the Home Office and which cover the period until June 2014, come as the number of refugees fleeing Syria edges towards 3 million, with 2.9 million refugees currently registered in the region and 100,000 more being registered every month.
In setting up the UK’s VPR scheme, the Government refused to put a figure on the number of people it expected to help, instead promising the programme would respond on a ‘needs basis’.
However, the Government has clarified it only expects the scheme to help ‘several hundred people over the next three years’.
Less than a month after the VPR scheme was announced, the UN’s Refugee Agency UNHCR issued a fresh call for countries around the world to take in an additional 100,000 refugees from Syria throughout 2015 and 2016.
Countries including Germany and Austria responded by increasing the number of resettlement places they were pledging.
The Refugee Council has criticised the Government for failing to respond, despite its promise of a needs based scheme. Instead, Ministers continue to assert that they anticipate the scheme will help just ‘several hundred people’.
Refugee Council Chief Executive Maurice Wren said: “The conflict in Syria triggered the greatest refugee crisis of the modern era and subsequent events in the Middle East have fuelled the largest forced displacement of people since the Second World War.
“The Government’s commendable decision to resettle refugees from Syria in Britain acknowledged the life transforming, if not life saving, role we are well equipped to play in response to the crisis, but the scale of the Syrian resettlement programme to date has been pitiful.
“Despite all its compassionate words, the UK has resettled just 50 refugees from Syria and appears content to keep the number low in the future. That is an affront to our long and proud tradition of offering protection to those who desperately need it. The Government must urgently address both the scale of its ambition and depths of its compassion.”