'Show the world once again Britain is a country of welcome'
Community organising charity Citizens UK has launched a campaign urging the Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, to extend the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme (VPRS) in the UK
Two hundred civil society leaders from mosques, churches, schools and other organisations from across the UK joined together at the campaign launch in London to celebrate the success of the scheme so far and urge the Home Office to #ExtendtheWelcome. They included Baptist minister Juliet Kilpin, who has been working alongside Citizens UK and others in supporting refugees and lobbying for them.
In 2015, the Government committed to welcoming 20,000 refugees to the country through the VPRS programme by 2020. The scheme has helped those in the greatest need, including people requiring urgent medical treatment, survivors of violence and torture, and women and children. In total, over 10,000 refugees have been settled in the UK through the scheme so far.
Nour Sakr, a refugee welcome leader based in Milton Keynes, said, 'I come from Syria, I can’t help my people back home but thanks to the Government’s VPRS scheme I and other volunteers are helping hundreds of families start new lives free from violence.
'It would be terrible to stop Britain’s refugee effort by cutting the scheme. I’m here to encourage Sajid Javid to take a brave stand with refugees and show the world once again Britain is a country of welcome.'
New data gathered by Citizens UK from the Government’s official ONS statistics demonstrate the success of the VPRS scheme so far.
Scotland has welcomed the most refugees through the scheme so far (2224). 31 of the 32 local authorities in Scotland have welcomed refugees. Yorkshire and the Humber has also welcomed a substantial number of refugees (1450), with every local authority in the region welcoming refugees.
In London, the leading Council for resettlement is Camden, with 75 refugees resettled. Lewisham Council has currently resettled 70 refugees and will commit on Friday to take a further 100 refugee families before 2020.
The Home Office is currently reviewing the future of the VPRS scheme, which risks being scaled down or closed altogether after 2020. As a result, Local Authorities taking part in the resettlement scheme could receive significantly less financial support from the Government, meaning that fewer councils, if any, will be able to continue resettling families beyond 2020.
Citizens UK’s welcome groups from across the country has supported local community groups that work closely with Local Authorities to successfully welcome and resettle families who have fled the war in Syria. Now Citizens is urging the Home Office Secretary Sajid Javid to extend the scheme beyond 2020 and keep it fully funded.
Citizens UK is also urging Sajid Javid to make improvements the Vulnerable Children’s Resettlement Scheme (VCRS). The charity claims that the Home Office needs to do more to improve English teaching to refugees to enable them to integrate successfully.
Gonzalo Vargas Llosa, UNHCR’s Representative in the UK, said, 'The VPRS is past its half-way stage and working well -- the refugees appreciate the genuine and warm welcome they have received here. We hope the Government will soon commit to resettling 10,000 of the most vulnerable refugees annually. Needs are greater than ever, among Syrians and those elsewhere.'
Rabbi Janet Darley, Citizen UK Council Member said, 'We are proud that local authorities across the UK have successfully resettled vulnerable refugees through the Government’s VPRS scheme – it’s been a big success. Torah commands us 35 times to welcome and care for the stranger, reminding us it is important we do not turn our backs on refugees after 2020, especially at a time when devastating conflicts around the world continue to force millions to flee.
'Our message to the Home Office is to thank them for the scheme and remind them that the support of civil society and local Councils for refugee resettlement remains as strong as ever. Let’s not stop now.'
Call on Sajid Javid, the new Home Secretary, to extend the VPRS resettlement scheme beyond 2020 - sign the petition here.