Refugees fleeing war-torn Syria hoping to find new lives in Burnley
TWENTY refugees resettled in Burnley last year through a scheme for those fleeing the Syrian conflict.
But the pandemic has brought a halt to any arrivals for now, with the Home Office just short of its goal of resettling 20,000 refugees nationally.
With the scheme due to be wrapped up when the figure is hit, charities are calling on the Government to clarify its long-term plans.
In Burnley, 20 refugees were resettled under the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme in 2019-20, Home Office statistics show.
This was a decrease on the 28 who were relocated in the area the year before.
The same trend was seen across the UK, with a drop from 5,020 to 4,450 over the two years.
Altogether, 19,768 have been granted humanitarian protection after being affected by the Syrian conflict under the scheme, since its launch in 2014.
With the coronavirus outbreak halting any refugees being resettled since March 12, the Government has been unable to reach its goal of 20,000 which it hoped to achieve in Spring of this year.
The VPRS was then set to be consolidated into the UK Resettlement Scheme, which pledges to resettle up to 5,000 people from across the globe in its first year.
However, charity Refugee Action said the new scheme lacks a long-term commitment, meaning local authorities have been unable to plan and budget.
It added that this is likely to have caused the reduction in the number of people resettled between the first quarters of 2019 and 2020 – falling from 1,184 to 733 across the UK.
In Burnley, there were four refugees resettled in both quarters.
Louise Calvey, head of resettlement at Refugee Action, said: “The hugely successful refugee resettlement programme helped hundreds of families and thousands of people rebuild their lives in the UK.
“However, a lack of clarity on what happens after March 31 next year is threatening the future of refugee resettlement, because local authorities providing services to people are unable to plan for arrivals and arrange necessary support for vulnerable families.
“The Government must give more certainty and urgently make a long-term commitment to resettle 10,000 refugees every year.”
Since its launch, 67 people have been resettled in Burnley under the scheme, among 1,904 across the North West.
A Home Office report on the effects of the pandemic on immigration said asylum applications, and initial decisions made, have “fallen sharply” since the start of Covid-19 restrictions.
Seb Klier, parliamentary manager at the non-profit Refugee Council, said: “The pause on refugee resettlement flights to the UK, while completely understandable as part of the public health response to Covid-19, does mean that refugees are left waiting for longer to restart their lives.
“Once it is safe to do so, the Government needs to focus on fulfilling its commitments under the VPRS and its aim to resettle an additional 5,000 people in the next year under its new consolidated scheme.”
A Home Office spokeswoman said: “Under the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme, the government is now close to fulfilling its commitment to resettle 20,000 vulnerable refugees affected by the Syrian