The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Refugee Council both welcomed an announcement by the Government on Monday that the UK will continue to resettle thousands of refugees under a new scheme set to start in 2020.
According to the Home Office, the new resettlement scheme will consolidate the Vulnerable Persons’ Resettlement Scheme, the Vulnerable Children’s Resettlement Scheme and the gateway protection programme into one global scheme.
In a written statement to Parliament on Monday, Home Secretary Sajid Javid said: “In the first year of operation of the new scheme, the UK will aim to resettle in the region of 5000 of the world’s most vulnerable refugees. We will continue to purposefully target those greatest in need of assistance, including people requiring urgent medical treatment, survivors of violence and torture, and women and children at risk. A new process for emergency resettlement will also be developed, allowing the UK to respond quickly to instances of heightened protection need, providing a faster route to protection where lives are at risk. Building on the experience of delivering the current schemes and the significant contribution of our community sponsors a key part of our resettlement offer will be that those resettled through our community sponsorship and Mandate routes will be in addition to our yearly, global commitment.”
The Refugee Council warmly welcomed the announcement and fully endorsed the move towards consolidating the existing schemes into a single programme.
Maurice Wren, Chief Executive of the Refugee Council, said: “Since 2015, UK resettlement schemes have proved an invaluable safe and regular route to the UK for refugees who would otherwise be left to live in extremely perilous situations overseas.
“The government should be immensely proud of all its achievements here. Day in, day out, we see resettlement’s truly transformative impact: watching a family that’s spent years living in a dangerous refugee camp being given the keys to their new home and being shown around their local area; children who were born during conflict having their first day at school.”
Wren added that he hoped the Government goes further by supporting refugees beyond 2021: “As the numbers of people being displaced globally soars to a record high, this is clearly the right and wholly necessary thing to do.”
Rossella Pagliuchi-Lor, UNHCR‘s UK Representative, also welcomed the announcement and said: “At the start of Refugee Week, this is a strong signal of international support for refugees and it places the UK among the leading countries for resettlement. It also makes sense to offer a consolidated, flexible programme that responds to where needs are greatest. UNHCR hopes that significant numbers will be welcomed by the UK beyond 2021.”
She added: “Resettlement is a life-changing experience. It is both challenging and rewarding. Bringing refugees to safety is only part of the story. Helping them to embrace their new home and contribute meaningfully to their new society is the next stage. It is also important to recognise the huge contribution of local authorities, service providers and civil society in making the UK resettlement programme a success.”
In related news, the UNHCR today released its annual Global Trends report, which shows that almost 70.8 million people are now forcibly displaced.
UNHCR says the conservative estimate is the highest level that it has seen in its almost 70 years.
Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, said: “What we are seeing in these figures is further confirmation of a longer-term rising trend in the number of people needing safety from war, conflict and persecution. While language around refugees and migrants is often divisive, we are also witnessing an outpouring of generosity and solidarity, especially by communities who are themselves hosting large numbers of refugees. We are also seeing unprecedented engagement by new actors including development actors, private businesses, and individuals, which not only reflects but also delivers the spirit of the Global Compact on Refugees. We must build on these positive examples and redouble our solidarity with the many thousands of innocent people who are forced to flee their homes each day.”