UK 'long way off' Syrian refugee resettlement target
According to the latest statistics, 4,414 refugees have been resettled so far across the country since former Prime Minister David Cameron pledged to take thousands from camps in Syria, Jordan and Turkey over a five-year period.
Although the British Government says it has secured enough indicative pledges from local authorities to meet its target, in a report released on Friday the Public Accounts Committee said 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 is required.
"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," said committee chair Meg Hillier MP.
"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 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, the report highlghted.
MPs also raised 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.
All refugees, no matter how they arrived in the country, should be able to access help to rebuild their lives, the Refugee Council charity said in response 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."