Support for Refugee families under the UK's Resettlement Programmes

Knowsley Council is proud to be taking part in the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme (VPRS) and the Vulnerable Children’s Resettlement Scheme. We have resettled 60 people under these schemes and, in November 2018, agreed to resettle a further 50 individuals. This equates to around 20 – 25 families once all individuals have arrived.

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/her nationality, and is unable to or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself/herself 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 Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme (VPRS)?

Launched in January 2014 and extended in September 2015, the scheme is a joint venture between the Home Office, the Department for International Development and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.  These agencies work closely with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and the UN Migration Agency to find resettlement opportunities for Syrian refugees most in need of protection, including survivors of violence and torture, people requiring urgent medical treatment and women and children at risk.  The scheme is committed to resettle up to 20,000 Syrian refugees in the UK that fled to the neighbouring countries (Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey) and to do this by 2020.

Initially, local authorities within the Liverpool City Region (Knowsley, Liverpool, Halton, Sefton, Wirral and St Helens) collectively agreed to accept 510 refugees under the programme.  Funding is received from central government’s International Development Fund to cover the costs of supporting the families in the first 12 months after arrival.  The funding continues at a reduced level over years 2-5 of the programme.

What is the Vulnerable Children’s Resettlement Scheme (VCRS)?

Launched later, in April 2016, this scheme is specifically tailored to support vulnerable children and their families in the MENA region (Middle East and North Africa) identified as being at high risk of harm and exploitation, including child labour and child marriage. The scheme is open to all ‘at risk’ groups and nationalities within the MENA region, and aims to resettle 3,000 vulnerable refugee children and their families.

In November 2018, the Council agreed to resettle a further 50 individuals from across these two schemes.

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 refugee families fleeing conflict in Syria and the MENA region under the government’s Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme and Vulnerable Children’s Resettlement Schemes.

Why is the council doing this?

In September 2015, Knowsley Council agreed that the humanitarian crisis in Syria was of such a horrific scale that Knowsley could not turn its back on the plight of the refugees. It is right that Knowsley plays its part to offer safety and shelter to families that are in such desperate need. Knowsley Council therefore made a commitment to support the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme. Subsequently, the council agreed, with other councils in the City Region, to take a number of families under the Vulnerable Children Resettlement Programme.

How many refugees has Knowsley agreed to take?

The Government has made a commitment that the UK will take 20,000 refugees over the five year period to 2020 and 3,000 vulnerable children and their families.

In total, Knowsley has agreed to take 110 individuals under the government funded programmes. This equates to 20 – 25 families.

Can we be sure the people that come are genuine refugees, not economic migrants?

The refugee families that come to Knowsley under the programmes have been thoroughly assessed by the UN’s High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and their refugee status is determined. Their refugee status is accepted by the UK before the families travel here.

Where are the refugees coming from?

They come from refugee camps in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. These are the countries that the families fled to in order to avoid the conflict in Syria. Families settling in Knowsley as part of the Vulnerable Children Resettlement Scheme are from countries within the Middle East and North Africa region.

Where will you re-house refugee families under the programmes?

The families are housed in various homes across the borough.

Will the refugee families 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, Refugee families settled as part of these programmes 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 unaccompanied minors 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 its position regarding UASC in a formal Council Motion.

Who is paying for this?

Central Government has provided funding to cover the resettlement costs incurred for the five years that Refugees have leave to remain the UK. After that, they are entitled to apply for settled status, British Citizenship or return home if it’s safe to do so.

This money is coming from Central Government’s International Development Fund, 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 parts 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 leave to remain, 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.

Refugees are entitled 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 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 programmes 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.

The resettled refugee families 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.