Knowsley Council is proud to be taking part in the national Syrian Refugee Resettlement scheme, welcoming up to 50 people who have been forced to flee their homes due to the ongoing conflict in the country.
What is a refugee?
Under the 1951 United Nations convention, a refugee is defined as “a person who, owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country.”
This means that:
- A refugee has proven to the UK authorities that they would be at risk if returned to their home country or they are unable to seek protection in their home country
- A refugee’s fear of persecution has to be well-founded, e.g. they have to have experienced the persecution personally or be likely to experience it personally if they return to their home country
- A refugee has had their claim for asylum accepted by the Government
A refugee is granted the right to remain in the UK for five years before their case is reassessed.
What is the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme (SVPRS)?
In response to the significant numbers of people fleeing Syria and arriving as refugees in the EU, the UK agreed an expansion of the existing Syrian Vulnerable Persons Relocation (VPR) scheme. The Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme (SVPRS) is the name of this expanded scheme.
The Prime Minister declared in September 2015 that the UK would resettle up to 20,000 refugees to the UK over the current Parliament (between 2015-2020). The scheme focuses on those outside of Europe in the Middle East / North Africa (MENA) region; in practice this means the Syrian border region where there are large numbers of refugees in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey.
Resettlement is a formal process of moving refugees from one host country to another where they can settle. Local authorities taking part in the scheme, like Knowsley, will receive payments from Government to cover the cost of rehousing refugees under this scheme for the five years in which they are entitled to Humanitarian Protection. This money is coming from Central Government’s Foreign Aid budget, and not from local council funds, minimising any possible impact on local services.
Local Authorities within the Liverpool City Region (Knowsley, Liverpool, Halton, Sefton, Wirral and St Helens) have been working together to agree a response to the Government’s Syrian Resettlement Scheme and have collectively agreed to accept a total of 510 refugees over the next 4 years. For Knowsley Council, the individual commitment is 50 refugees.
For further information on the Syrian Resettlement Programme please see our FAQs.
What is the Vulnerable Children’s Resettlement Scheme (VCRS)?
In 2016 the Government announced it had commissioned the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to lead a new initiative to resettle vulnerable children impacted by the conflict in the Middle East. The new scheme is specifically tailored to support vulnerable children and their families at risk in the Middle East and North African (MENA) region and aimed to resettle 3,000 individuals over the life of the Parliament.
Resettlement is a formal process of moving refugees from one host country to another where they can settle. Local authorities taking part in the scheme, like Knowsley, will receive payments from Government to cover the cost of rehousing refugees under this scheme for the five years in which they are entitled to stay in the UK. This money is coming from Central Government’s Foreign Aid budget, and not from local council funds, minimising any possible impact on local services.
Local Authorities within the Liverpool City Region have committed to accepting people under this scheme and Knowsley Council have agreed to accept two families.
The new scheme, which is the largest resettlement effort aimed specifically at children at risk from the MENA region, is in addition to the government’s resettlement scheme.
Refugees – FAQ
What is Knowsley Council doing?
Knowsley Council has agreed, alongside other authorities across the Liverpool City Region, to play our part in resettling our fair share of refugees fleeing conflict in Syria and affected territory in that region, as part of the Government’s Syrian Resettlement Scheme.
Why is the council doing this?
Knowsley Council made a commitment in September 2015 to support the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme and welcome its fair share of refugees into the borough as part of the national scheme.
Councillors in Knowsley agreed that the humanitarian crisis in Syria is of such a horrific scale that Knowsley could not turn its back. It is right that Knowsley plays its part to offer safety and shelter to families who are in such desperate need.
How many refugees has Knowsley agreed to take?
The Government have said the UK, supported by councils, will take 20,000 refugees over the next five years.
Knowsley Council has agreed to take 50 individuals over two years, as part of the Liverpool City Region commitment.
Can we be sure the people that come are genuine refugees, not economic migrants?
The refugees who come to Knowsley will have already been through the Home Office sponsored Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme. They will have been thoroughly assessed before they travel to the UK, through the UN’s High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organisation for Migration. Therefore we can be quite certain of their refugee status as this is accepted before they arrive.
Where are the refugees coming from?
They’ll come from specific refugee camps in and around Syria that the UNHCR and Home Office have identified under the Government’s Syrian Resettlement Programme.
Where will you house these resettled Syrian refugees’?
We are working to identify homes in various locations within both the private and social rented sectors across Knowsley. Using current data, we know that there is housing available across the borough to accommodate the Syrian refugees and still meet the needs of our existing communities. It is intended that households containing refugees will be dispersed around the borough, rather than in a single location.
Will refugees get preferential treatment for housing?
No – based on current Government guidance, they will be treated in exactly the same way as anyone else in the borough. In fact Syrian Refugees won’t be able to refuse properties offered to them in the way that the general allocation scheme allows local residents refusals.
Will this affect people already on the housing waiting list?
As the council is working across the Liverpool City Region and with both private and social landlords, we will use existing properties that are vacant and we anticipate little or no impact on any waiting lists that individual Social Landlords may be holding.
Will you do the same to help homeless people in the borough?
We have a statutory duty for homelessness. As part of this, we offer housing options advice and support to anyone, including a duty to provide temporary/permanent accommodation for those that meet set criteria. We also have a homelessness strategy and work with a range of organisations to prevent homelessness in Knowsley. This will not change.
Will Knowsley be accepting unaccompanied refugee children?
Unaccompanied minors will not be allocated to Knowsley via the Government’s Syrian Resettlement Programme as the UNHCR policy is to try to place with relatives wherever possible. The National Transfer Scheme has been put in place by the Home Office to allocate unaccompanied asylum seeking children (UASC) to Local Authorities across the UK. The council considered this scheme recently and set out it’s position regarding UASC in a formal Council Motion which can be found here.
Who is paying for this?
Central Government has provided funding to cover the resettlement costs incurred for the five years that Refugees are given Humanitarian Protection. After that, they are entitled to apply for British Citizenship or return home if it’s safe to do so.
This money is coming from Central Government’s Foreign Aid budget, and not from local council funds, minimising any possible impact on local services.
How can Knowsley afford to do this when council funds are being cut?
Knowsley has made a commitment to supporting refugees because it believes this to be the right thing to do. It’s too early to put an accurate figure on what the likely costs will be, and they will vary depending on the specific needs of the individuals and families moving to the borough and the types of services they might require.
However, the Government has provided additional funding to support the resettlement of the Refugees. They will be treated like any new family moving into the borough and as such are entitled to access public services in the same way as any new family moving to Knowsley from other part of the UK or indeed the world.
How long will refugees stay here and how long will the council support them?
Syrian Refugees will be granted five years humanitarian protection, under the Government’s Syrian Resettlement Programme, after which they can either return home (if safe) or apply to settle here under the usual Home Office rules.
The humanitarian protection Refugees are granted entitles them to access public funds, however as part of the Resettlement Programme, the council is also expected to provide intensive support for the first 12 months, with this decreasing over the remaining four years. Many Refugees will bring with them a variety of skills that we hope will enhance the local area, and they will be encouraged to find work in the same way as anyone who claims benefits.
What will the public support entail?
Refugees will have faced incredible hardships before arriving in Knowsley, so as well as housing support some are likely to need access to education, training and healthcare services. Knowsley Council will also work closely with our voluntary, community and faith organisations to ensure there is social and cultural support available.
Are resettled Syrian refugees able to claim benefits?
Under the Government programme, Refugees have access to the same benefits as any other borough resident. Those resettled under the Government programme will arrive with refugee status allowing them to work and have access to benefits.
What is the difference between a refugee and an asylum seeker?
Refugees are not the same as asylum seekers. Asylum seekers are waiting for the Home Office to make a decision about their application to stay in the UK. They're not able to work whilst their case is being assessed. They can legally stay in the UK until their case has been assessed. More information about asylum seekers can be found on the asylum page.
Refugees have already had their application accepted and can stay in the UK for five years. Refugees are allowed to work, must pay taxes and are entitled to the same services as any other citizen.
How can I help?
If you wish to get involved or offer support, please email SFprogramme@knowsley.gov.uk.