First Syrian refugees to arrive in UK tomorrow


Jamie Merrill
Monday 24 March 2014 16:12 GMT
Syrian Fallout: The Lebanese army can’t prevent the influx of refugees
Syrian Fallout: The Lebanese army can’t prevent the influx of refugees

The first of “several hundred” Syrian refugees will arrive in Britain tomorrow, The Independent can reveal.

Somewhere in the region of “10 to 20 refugees” are expected to arrive in Britain tomorrow morning as part of a Government scheme to relocate some of the most vulnerable people fleeing the country’s bloody civil war.

The Syrians, who are all believed to be medical cases, will be the first to arrive under the Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme, which was announced in January after concerted political pressure by the Labour Party and a powerful coalition of aid agencies and charities.

The campaign, which was supported by The Independent, forced the Government to perform a major policy U-Turn and open the UK’s doors to vulnerable women and girls who had experienced or were at risk from sexual violence, the elderly, the disabled and survivors of torture.

This came after an “unprecedented” open letter signed by 25 aid agencies and refugee groups. The letter, published in The Independent, urged the Government to join 18 western countries backing the UNHCR’s resettlement programme.

Speaking in January the Prime Minister said the UK act with “the greatest urgency” in offering the “most needy people” a “home in our country”. Since then the Government has worked with the UNHCR and local authorities to provide support, services and accommodation for “several hundred” Syrian refugees.

The figure of 500 refugees was initially reported, however it is now believed the Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme will only assist “several hundred” refugees over a period of up to “three years”.

Few details of the scheme have been announced, but it is expected that the Syrian refugees will be houses by a number of local authorities across the county. More details are expected to follow on tomorrow.

Last week The Independent reported that some aid agencies have criticised the Government for failing to join the UNHRC programme to resettle 30,000 Syrian refugees.

It has instead spent the last eight weeks establishing its own Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme, to the dismay of some refugee organisations who have accused the Government of “dragging its feet”.

David Hanson, Labour’s shadow immigration minister, welcomed the arrival but said: “It's shameful that the most vulnerable refugees fleeing the Syrian conflict have had to wait four months for help all because David Cameron insisted on a parallel system to that run by the UN.”

Chris Doyle, director of the Council for Arab-British Understanding, and a signatory of the letter, said,:“The arrival of Syrians to the UK who have suffered so much will make a huge change, offering them the opportunity to try to recover from unimaginable horror. It is essential that they are properly cared for and are made extremely welcome."

He added: “However, they leave behind thousands of other Syrians similarly vulnerable and traumatised. Britain and other countries must not ignore them. We hope that the government will act to increase the size of the programme, and that the arrival of these refugees from Syria is only the beginning."

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