An influential group of MPs has warned there is a ‘long way to go’ if the Government is to successfully meet its target of resettling 20,000 refugees from Syria by 2020.
Although the Government says it has secured enough indicative pledges from local authorities to meet its target, in a report released today the Public Accounts Committee says success of the programme is dependent on pledges of offers of support from local authorities turning into firm places
The Committee criticised confusion surrounding the scheme, and said both local councils volunteering to host refugees and the refugees themselves were not entirely sure what was expected of them.
Some local councils are resettling refugees for the first time and are having to learn quickly about what’s required. The Refugee Council has been working in partnership with local authorities across the country for decades and is currently offering expert support to councils across Yorkshire and Hertfordshire as they resettle Syrian refugees.
According to the latest statistics, 4,414 refugees have been resettled so far across the country.
Chair of the Public Accounts Committee Meg Hillier MP said: “Syrians now make up the largest refugee population in the world and the UK is playing its part in helping people who are truly desperate.
“While the programme team was right to take a fresh look at the programme last year, more work is needed to make it sustainable in the longer term.
“This is a voluntary programme, but one with significant ambition, and it is vital councils’ initial pledges of help translate into firm offers of accommodation, support and services for refugees.”
Unlike refugees who are recognised through the asylum system, refugees who are resettled in the UK receive a programme of tailored integration support to help them settle into their new lives. However in their report, MPs highlighted that survivors of torture or violence, who make up the majority of those resettled in the UK, are still unable to access the specialist support they need.
MPs also echoed the Refugee Council’s concern that humanitarian protection, the special type of leave to remain being given to resettled Syrians, is different to that granted to most other refugees and could prevent people from accessing certain public services such as higher education because of restrictions on student finance.
The Refugee Council believes all refugees, no matter how they arrived in the country, should be able to access help to rebuild their lives.
Responding to the report, Refugee Council Director of Advocacy Dr. Lisa Doyle said: “The Government’s target of resettling 20,000 people is more than achievable and local communities and charities like the Refugee Council are standing ready to help.
“What’s needed now is an acknowledgement that the global refugee crisis isn’t going away anytime soon and that a longer term strategy for refugee resettlement is needed which clearly outlines roles, responsibilities, resources and an ambitious plan for welcoming refugees beyond 2020.”