28 March 2014

The first group of Syrian refugees, believed to be some 10 – 20 people, arrived in the UK this week under the government’s Vulnerable Persons Relocation scheme. The people are deemed to be most vulnerable and cannot be adequately protected in the region. They will be granted five years’ humanitarian protection and will be able to access public funds, the labour market and have the possibility of family reunion.

After months of campaigning by NGOs and aid agencies with pressure from other political parties, the UK government announced its commitment to offer resettlement places to vulnerable refugees including women at risk of sexual violence and survivors of torture at the end of January.

While a figure of up to 500 refugees to be resettled was initially reported, it is now believed the Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme will assist several hundred refugees over a period of up to three years.

While assuring that this relocation will transform, if not save the people’s lives, Refugee Council Chief Executive Maurice Wren has said that, “The Government has insisted from the outset that this programme will be needs rather than number based, so it’s disappointing to hear that it will only support several hundred people over the next three years when the on going need is clearly colossal.”

“Over 2.5 million refugees have now fled the conflict and as a result, UNHCR is now calling on governments around the world to help resettle 130,000 people over the next three years. We hope the UK Government will be bold and ambitious in its response to this call and encourage other countries to act similarly. The world must not turn its back on Syria’s refugees”, continues Wren.

UK –based NGOs, Asylum Aid, Freedom from Torture, British Refugee Council, Regional Refugee Forum, Refugee Action, Scottish Refugee Council, Welsh Refugee Council, Crucible Human Rights Centre, Northern Refugee Centre, City of Sanctuary and STAR have joined with over 100 NGOs to call on European leaders to give refugees a safe way into Europe, protect refugees arriving at Europe’s borders and reunite families torn apart by crisis. Sign the petition and give your voice to Syria’s refugees via www.helpsyriasrefugees.eu. Read Europe Act Now Recommendations here.

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This article originally appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 28 March 2014
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