UNHCR welcomes UK granting refugee status to resettled Syrians

Welcoming the Government’s announcement that as of 1 July 2017 the UK will be granting refugee status to resettled Syrians and others arriving under the UK’s two major resettlement schemes, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, stressed today the importance this decision will have for their successful integration.

More than 5,700 Syrian refugees have been resettled to the UK since the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme (VPRS) with the quota of 20,000 places began in March 2014. They have been welcomed and received by 206 local authorities across the country. In May 2016 the Government also committed itself to resettling up to 3,000 refugees from the Middle East and North Africa, with a focus on children at risk and their families.

In response to today’s announcement, the UNHCR Representative to the UK Gonzalo Vargas Llosa said: “We are pleased and encouraged by the Government’s decision to grant refugee status to families and individuals resettled to the UK through the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme for Syrian refugees and the Vulnerable Children at Risk scheme. This is a step in the right direction and the decision will contribute to the successful integration of refugees in the UK. Matched with the ground swell of support of the British public for refugees, this decision will help provide the sense of stability and certainty that refugees need about their future.

The UK was among the first to respond to UNHCR’s 2013 call for temporary or long-term safe and legal pathways for Syrian refugees. As the Syrian conflict enters its seventh year, the UK’s decision will help support the long-term integration of refugees.”

In practice, the grant of refugee status will help provide clarity in legal status to beneficiaries; ensure easier access to financial support for Higher Education and help provide access to travel documents making it easier for refugees to visit relatives abroad. As the resettlement and asylum processes complement each other, the new policy will give the same rights to resettled Syrians as those who claim asylum in the UK and are granted refugee status.

More than 4.9 million Syrians live as refugees in Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt. UNHCR estimates that more than 10 per cent of them are acutely vulnerable and need resettlement elsewhere. This includes those who fall within globally agreed resettlement criteria, such as survivors of torture, refugees with serious medical conditions or women left alone with several children to care for and without family support.

The UK is one of 34 countries contributing to UNHCR’s ongoing resettlement effort for Syrian refugees. In addition to resettlement of 20,000 Syrian refugees, UNHCR continues to support the UK in resettling 3,000 vulnerable children from the Middle East region.