In September 2015, the Government announced that the UK would resettle up to 20,000 refugees by the end of the current parliament in 2020. Cheshire West and Chester Council is proud to be taking part in the Syrian Resettlement Programme and to welcome people into the borough who have been forced to flee their homes due to the ongoing conflict in the region.
The Council is committed to working with partners to support refugees to resettle successfully in the borough. Council officers have been working closely with neighbouring Councils, other key partners and with the North West Regional Strategic Migration Partnership to develop a co-ordinated framework for resettling refugees. The Strategic Migration Partnership coordinates refugee resettlement across the North West on behalf of the Home Office and works with local authorities to support them to take part in the resettlement programme.
What is a refugee?
- Refugees: a refugee is a person who, following a claim for asylum has been recognised by the Home Office as needing protection under the 1951 UN Refugee Convention because they are unable to return to their own country due to the persecution or danger they would face there. Refugees have a legal right to live and work in the UK. A refugee is granted the right to remain in the UK for five years, after which their case will be reassessed; if they are still deemed unable to return to their country of origin after this time, they may be offered permanent residence in the UK.
- Asylum seekers: an asylum seeker is a person who has made a claim to be considered for refugee status under the UN Refugee Convention. The UK has signed the Convention and therefore any person seeking asylum has a legal right to be in the UK. Asylum seekers do not have the right to work in the UK or to claim benefits while their application for asylum is being processed.
- Migrants: the term ‘migrant’ refers to someone who has chosen to live in another region or country; examples include economic migrants, who move for employment purposes and international students.
What is the Syrian Resettlement Programme? (SRP)
Resettlement is the formal process of moving refugees from one country to another host country where they can settle. The SRP was established by the Government following the pledge to resettle up to 20,000 refugees in the UK in September 2015; it is the framework through which refugees are brought to the UK.
Why is the UK taking in so many refugees?
It is a myth that the majority of refugees and asylum seekers are coming to the UK; the UK is in fact home to less than 1% of the world’s refugees.
Figures from the UN’s High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) show that around 86% of refugees are living in developing countries, often in extremely poor conditions in refugee camps. Over 4.5 million people have fled the conflict in Syria and the majority of them are living in camps in and around the region.
Turkey hosts the most refugees of any country in the world; 2.5 million Syrian refugees have sought sanctuary there, while Jordan and Lebanon host another 1.7 million between them.
Home Office statistics show that, in 2015, the average number of people seeking asylum per 1,000 population in Europe was 2.48; in the UK, the average was 0.60. This compares with 16.62 for Sweden, 16.60 for Hungary,9.44 for Austria, and 5.31 for Germany. There were 18 countries in Europe with a higher figure than the UK.
Why is the council taking part in the resettlement programme?
The civil war in Syria has resulted in one of the worst humanitarian crises of the 21st century. Councils across the country were asked by the Home Office to play their part in resettling vulnerable refugees displaced by the conflict and Cheshire West and Chester Councillors agreed that it is only right that the borough should play its part in offering safety and shelter to the families affected.
How many refugees will be supported to resettle in the borough?
Councillors have agreed that up to 20 refugee families will be resettled in the borough over a five-year period, as part of a wider commitment for the Cheshire sub-region as a whole.
Where will the refugees come from?
Refugees will come from camps identified by the UN’s High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Home Office, in the regions bordering Syria and other locations, where there are known to be large numbers of refugees.
Can we be sure the people that come are genuine refugees?
The refugees who come to the borough will be assessed by the UNHCR and the International Organisation for Migration before they travel to the UK, so their status as a refugee will have been confirmed before they arrive here.
What security checks will refugees have?
Refugees are subject to stringent security checks before entering the UK. The Home Office works closely with the UNHCR, which has its own robust identification processes in place, including biometrics, documentary evidence of identity and a rigorous interview process. The Home Office retains the right to reject individuals on the grounds of security where there is insufficient information or evidence available to undertake effective screening.
Where will you house refugees?
We are working with partners in both the social and private rented sectors to identify suitable homes to accommodate refugees across the borough.
Will refugees get preferential treatment for housing?
No. Refugees have the same rights and responsibilities as every other citizen living in the borough and they will be treated in exactly the same way as anyone else deemed to be in housing need.
Will this affect people already on the housing waiting list?
The number of families to be resettled in the borough is relatively small and, as the Council is working across the whole of the borough and with landlords in both the social and private rented sectors, we anticipate that there will be little or no impact on anyone seeking to access social housing in the borough.
Will you do the same to help homeless people in the borough?
All local authorities have a statutory duty towards homeless people. As part of this duty, the Council offers housing options advice and support to anyone, including providing temporary accommodation for those that meet the standard eligibility criteria. We also have a robust homelessness strategy and work with a range of organisations to prevent homelessness in the borough. This will not change.
Are refugees able to claim benefits?
Refugees are legally entitled to be here and have the same rights and responsibilities as any other citizen living in the borough. This includes the right to work and to claim benefits, subject to the same eligibility criteria as any other resident.
Will the Council be accepting unaccompanied refugee children?
There is a separate scheme for bringing unaccompanied asylum seeking and refugee children to the UK. The North West Regional Strategic Migration Partnership has worked closely with local authorities in the North West and with the Association of Directors of Children’s Services to develop a coordinated regional approach to resettling unaccompanied minors and the Council has signed up to play its part under this programme.
Who will pay for the resettlement programme?
Central Government has provided funding to cover the costs of the resettlement programme for the five years that Refugees are granted leave to stay in the UK. After that period, refugees are entitled to apply for British Citizenship if they wish to remain in the UK, or to return to their country of origin, if it is safe for them to do so.
The funding is being provided by Central Government from the Foreign Aid budget, and not from existing funds allocated to local authorities, nor from the proceeds of Council Tax, which minimises any potential impact on local service provision.
How can I help?
The Council is very grateful to the many local people and voluntary, community and faith organisations that have already offered to provide help and support for refugees. Anyone interested in volunteering or offering support should contact EPNAVCO, the Ellesmere Port and Neston Association of Voluntary and Community Organisations, which is coordinating the response on behalf of the local voluntary sector across the borough:
- Write to: EPNAVCO, 108-112 Whitby Road, Ellesmere Port, CH65 0AB
- Telephone: 0151 370 2960
If you would like to offer to foster any of the children and young people who need care in the borough, please contact the Council's Fostering Team