03 August 2016

Councils not ‘pulling their weight’ in rehousing Syrian refugees, say MPs

Some local authorities are failing to do enough to help resettle Syrian refugees, leading to a ‘two-tier system’ of support, MPs have warned today.

A new report from the Home Affairs Committee found that while 1,602 people had been accepted under the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme to March 2016, not all local authorities are providing asylum accommodation.

It warned there is little evidence the target of resettling 20,000 Syrians by 2020 was on schedule and called on the Government to encourage all local authorities to take on their ‘fair share’ of refugees.

The report stated: ‘It is clear from the recently published statistics that more local authorities need to contribute to providing asylum accommodation, including for Syrian refugees. There is now a two-tier system among local authorities, with some providing support to Syrian refugees and others not doing so.

‘A similar two-tier system applies in the level of support local authorities provide for other asylum-seekers.’

It also said that as those who come to the UK under the scheme are only given humanitarian protection for five years, the Government was at risk of not meeting its obligations under the 1951 UN Convention.

However, council leaders have dismissed the report as being ‘out of date’.

Cllr David Simmonds, chairman of the Local Government Association’s Asylum, Refugee and Migration Task Group, said: ‘We are confident that there will be sufficient places that will support the Government’s pledge to resettle 20,000 people by 2020 and the focus must now be on ensuring families are matched to the right placements and that they arrive safely and are well supported.’

He added that councils have no say over when people are allowed to enter the UK, but ‘stand ready to help’ when they do.

A local government insider told The MJ there was a difference between arrival and pledge numbers.

Responding to the report, Paul Carter, leader of Kent County Council, said: 'Kent is one of just three authorities picked out for particular praise by the Local Government Chronicle for helping hundreds of vulnerable refugees.

‘All districts across the county have risen to the challenge and expressed their willingness to accept Syrian families in need. Some districts, including Tunbridge Wells, Ashford, Tonbridge and Dover already have families living in their areas and, so far, Kent districts have committed to accepting around 130 families over the next five years.’

Cllr Carter also emphasised that Kent has taken in many vulnerable young people and he called for a ‘fairer dispersal’ of these children across the country.

‘In addition to the Syrian families, we are also helping a high number of vulnerable unaccompanied asylum seeking children,’ he said.

‘Kent, more than any other local authority, has taken much more than its fair share of responsibility for the unprecedented influx of vulnerable young people, which number around 840 under-18s and more than 500 now over the age of 18.’

‘We are currently working with the Government and other local authorities to ensure there is a fairer dispersal of these children and young people across the UK,’ he added.

Photo: Procyk Radek / Shutterstock.com

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