DFID funds to help councils’ refugee response

7 Sep 15

Local authorities that take in refugees from the crisis in Syria are to be given funding from the UK’s international development budget, ministers have confirmed today.

Prime Minister David Cameron has announced that the UK will take in up to 20,000 Syrian refugees over the rest of this Parliament after he pledged last week that “thousands more” would be accepted.

"We will continue to use the established UNHCR process for identifying and resettling refugees and when they arrive here we will grant them a 5 year humanitarian protection visa. And we will significantly expand the criteria we use for our existing Syrian Vulnerable Persons Relocation scheme," he said.

Cameron added that councils and devolved administrations coming forward to express their willingness to do more to take Syrian refugees had reflected a wider generosity from families and communities across the country. The home secretary Theresa May and the communities secretary Greg Clark will now work intensively with local authorities and the devolved administrations to put in place the necessary arrangements to house these refugees, he said.

"[I]n full accordance with internationally agreed rules, we will also ensure that the full cost of supporting thousands of Syrian refugees in the UK will be met through our aid spending for the first year, easing the burden on local communities."


Under Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development rules, money spent on the first year of an asylum seeker's stay can count as foreign aid.

This is not expected to lead to cuts in existing projects, but will instead come from the uplift in funding that is expected as part of the commitment to spend 0.7% of UK gross domestic product on international aid.

Responding to the announcement, the Local Government Association said councils have an excellent track record in supporting refugee children and their families and they stand ready to help in every way they can. However, the government needed to ensure that when the moment of crisis passes, the families and individuals also have the support and resources they need to settle into a new life in the UK, the chair of the LGA's Asylum, Migration and Refugee Task Group David Simmonds said.

"UK councils helped accommodate over 25,000 refugees and nearly 2,000 unaccompanied refugee children in the last year, most of whom will remain in the UK long term. We are supporting around 10,000 households whose asylum application was eventually turned down and who are now dependent on their local council for somewhere to live.

"Councils need a commitment from government to provide full funding to support individuals and families until they are granted asylum or they are safely returned to their own country. Local communities that open their doors at a moment of crisis should not be left to pick up the pieces when funding runs out and the world's attention has moved on."

Also yesterday, the Scottish Government announced it would make £1m available to fund the work of a taskforce that is co-ordinating Scotland’s response to the humanitarian crisis.

In particular, the funding will be used to help refugees integrate into Scottish life and to assess the capacity for Scotland to take in more people.

A summit convened by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon on Friday heard personal testimony from those who escaped persecution or war and had been welcomed to Scotland.

“Their stories are inspirational and I hope that the steps we are now taking can help many more refugees like them make a better life for their families,” she stated.

“After that summit I announced that the steps required for us to accommodate our fair share of refugees would be examined and co-ordinated by a taskforce, which will begin work this week establishing Scotland’s capacity in a range of important areas such as housing and health services. It will also have a crucial role in harnessing the good will that exists in Scotland and turning that into practical help for those in distress.”

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