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We’re taking too few Syrian refugees – and we let them down when they get here

A GOVERNMENT scheme that allows displaced Syrians to settle in Britain has helped less than half of its 20,000 target so far, according to UN figures released yesterday.

Only about 8,000 refugees have been given permission to stay and have accessed medical care, education and accommodation under the government's Syrian resettlement scheme, the report says.

In 2015, ministers committed to taking in 20,000 Syrians driven from the war-torn country by 2020.

The number was set following a public outcry over the fate of those attempting the dangerous journey across the Mediterranean to European countries in overcrowded boats and dinghies.

The United Nations high commissioner for refugees, the International Organisation for Migration and London’s City University conducted a study of 167 refugees to monitor their progress under the Syrian vulnerable persons resettlement scheme.

The report highlighted areas for improvement including English language provision and further support for housing and employment.

It stated that while a small number of those interviewed had picked up jobs, existing work promotion schemes were limited.

Other proposals included strengthening the provision of appropriate housing by government after the study found the stock of affordable rental property was small and getting more scarce.

Steve Valdez-Symonds, Amnesty International UK’s refugee programme director, said that the scheme should be improved and be extended beyond the deadline of 2020.

He said: “The UN is right to stress that supporting integration is key to a successful asylum resettlement scheme, and our experience has been that local support groups have often played a vital part in this as well.

“Though life-transforming for those involved, this programme was always a very limited answer to the huge Syrian refugee crisis and no answer at all to the wider international refugee crisis.

“The government should enhance and extend this scheme, while also supporting other safe and legal routes — including greater family reunion opportunities — for people fleeing persecution and conflict from numerous danger zones around the world.”

Stephen Hale, chief executive of Refugee Action, said: “Our research shows current English language provision isn’t fit for purpose and that refugees can wait up to three years to start learning.

“More investment is needed to ensure all refugees in Britain have timely access to classes. Giving refugees the chance to integrate, find jobs and volunteer is a no-brainer.”


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