THE GOVERNMENT’S pledge to resettle 20,000 refugees from war-torn Syrian has been dubbed “too low and too slow” by charities after it was revealed that just over a tenth of the target had arrived so far.
Home Office figures show that between the start of October last year and the end of June, 2,646 people have arrived under the Syrian vulnerable persons resettlement scheme.
In Yorkshire and the Humber, 228 Syrians were resettled, 9 per cent of the UK’s total, and just 15 per cent of the 1,500 refugees the region had agreed to take last year as part of Government’s commitment to offer sanctuary to 20,000 people from Syria by 2020.
Former Prime Minister David Cameron announced plans for the resettlement initiative in September after a public outcry over the fate of those driven to attempt crossing the Mediterranean.
In the final three months of 2015, 1,085 were brought to the UK. The number then dipped to 517 in the first quarter of this year before more than doubling to 1,044 in the three months from April.
Refugee Council head of advocacy Dr Lisa Doyle said: “There is absolutely no reason why a country as welcoming and wealthy as Britain would be unable to fulfil its pledge to resettle 20,000 Syrian refugees by 2020. After all, it’s only the equivalent of each constituency welcoming one family a year.”
Steve Symonds, Amnesty International UK’s refugee programme director, said: “The target of resettling 20,000 Syrian refugees by 2020 has always been too low and too slow.”
Those arriving under the programme have been resettled across 118 local authorities - up from 71 in the six months to March. Coventry has taken the highest number, with 125, followed by Gateshead with 107 and Edinburgh at 83. The data show there were 273 council areas where no Syrians had been resettled under the scheme in the nine months from October.
Earlier this month a Commons committee report warned of a “two-tier system” over participation in the initiative, which is voluntary for town halls.
Regionally, Scotland has taken by far the greatest share of refugees under the scheme, with 862, over the three quarters - or a third of the total number who have arrived.
David Simmonds, chairman of the Local Government Association’s asylum, refugee and migration task group, said: “Councils have an excellent track record in welcoming asylum seeking and refugee children and their families for many years and continue to work hard to support the Syrian resettlement scheme, alongside all the other schemes in current operation.
“They have no say over when people will be allowed to enter the UK, but stand ready to help when they do.”