William Eichler 13 January 2017

Council responsibilities towards Syrian refugees ‘too vague’ warn MPs

A lack of clarity on what local authorities should provide to Syrian refugees poses a threat to the long-term success of the Government’s resettlement programme, committee says.

A Public Accounts Committee (PAC) report has warned that despite encouraging progress it will be a ‘significant challenge’ to resettle 20,000 Syrian refugees in the UK by 2020.

It found there was a lack of clarity around responsibilities and entitlements under the programme. In particular, some councils were confused about what they were expected to provide to refugees and how this should be funded.

The question of specialist support for victims of torture and violence is one area where there is confusion, PAC reported.

More than half of the refugees resettled under the programme by the end of June last year had suffered torture or violence, and it is unclear whether survivors are getting the support they need.

The committee recommended the Home Office ‘more clearly specify what local authorities are expected to provide to refugees to address any current disparities or confusion’.

PAC also reported central Government plans for evaluating the programme were ‘still too vague’ and urged Whitehall to set out an effective framework for measuring its success against indicators such as progress with English and employment.

‘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 PAC chair Meg Hillier.

‘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.’

Photo: Ververidis Vasilis / Shutterstock, Inc.

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