Syrian Refugee Crisis - Cabinet Statement

Page last updated at 10 September 2015 at 17:31

At Cabinet on Thursday 10 September 2015, Councillor Keith House said:

"In the House of Commons on Monday 7 September, the Prime Minister announced that Britain should resettle up to 20,000 Syrian refugees over the rest of the Parliament. These refugees will be taken from the camps in the countries neighbouring Syria using the established UNHCR process for identifying and resettling refugees. The Prime Minister also announced that the criteria for the existing Syrian Vulnerable Persons Relocation scheme will be expanded.

The Home Office and Department for Communities and Local Government will be working with local authorities to put in place the arrangements to house and support the refugees. The cost of supporting the refugees in their first year in Britain will be funded from foreign aid spending. At this stage, no further details have been announced by the government. The Prime Minister indicated that the Home Secretary would be making an announcement next week with more details about how the scheme will work. Refugees will be granted a five year humanitarian protection visa. This will entitle them to access to public funds, access to the labour market and the possibility of a family reunion.

The Local Government Association on behalf of the local government community is working to ensure councils are able to play their part and are fully funded to deal with the growing refugee crisis. The Local Government Association has called on government for a long-term plan for school places, NHS resources and housing.

Government generally funds refugee activity through National Asylum Support Service (NASS) and this funding will generally be directed to social services authorities, in our case Hampshire County Council.  In the event of a direct approach here in Eastleigh Borough from an individual, this would be referred to the County Council and we would expect that they would seek advice from the Borough Council’s housing team in support of this work. 

Refugees and asylum seekers are most often accommodated in areas where there is a history of similar communities with historic or linguistic ties.  These are often in London, or metropolitan areas with a diverse mix of ethnicities. At this stage we are waiting for further information about how refugees brought to Britain will be supported.

There are negotiations taking place at a national level on the best way to help people quickly and effectively; It is likely this will result in a national scheme based on the current resettlement scheme in which local authorities can provide support for refugees within existing accommodation.  Residents in many areas have offered help with accommodation.  We await guidance, but in the meantime the Home Office website (www.gov.uk/government/organisations/home-office) is the best source of advice.

One of the priority groups will be children and young people, so fostering opportunities are one way of support and residents should contact the County Council if they are interested in becoming a foster carer.

Many residents have offered donations and there are national charities involved in the refugee crisis.  Here in Eastleigh, the Mayor has launched a JustGiving page to help the fundraising efforts of the British Red Cross which residents of Eastleigh Borough and beyond can donate to www.justgiving.com/EastleighSyrianRefugeeAppeal

The Council will be monitoring the situation closely, and where appropriate in response to national advice, will assist where it can."