The UK’s Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Programme will now be open to resettle vulnerable refugees of any nationality, not just Syrian, who fled the conflict to neighbouring countries and are unable to safely return to their home country. The overall target of 20,000 refugees to be resettled by 2020 remains unchanged.
UK Home Secretary Amber Rudd made the announcement on Monday and explained that government had responded to advice from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) who identified that a diversified resettlement scheme was required to address the needs of the refugee population in the region.
“It is vitally important that we focus our support on the most vulnerable refugees in the region who have fled the atrocities in Syria, whatever their nationality. I am proud that the UK is continuing be proactive and by expanding the scheme we are making sure our doors continue to remain open to the people who most need our help.”
Since 2015, more than 7,000 Syrians have been resettled to the UK from the Middle East and North Africa Region (MENA) through the scheme. The Home Secretary added:
“The UK has been at the forefront of the response and has pledged £2.46 billion to the humanitarian crisis. In addition, the Vulnerable Children Resettlement Scheme will resettle up to 3,000 of the most vulnerable children and their families from the Middle East and North Africa region by 2020.”
Church leaders have welcomed the policy change.
The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, said:
“The devastating conflict in and around Syria has affected people of many different nationalities. That is why the Catholic community has been calling for our resettlement programme to be made accessible to the most vulnerable refugees whatever their background. Resettlement opportunities for those who have particular needs that cannot be met in the region are a vital complement to the international community’s wider humanitarian response.”
He also pledged continued support for local church relief efforts and involvement through the UK’s Community Sponsorship Scheme.
The Church of England’s lead bishop on refugees spoke in the House of Lords. Bishop of Durham, the Rt Revd Paul Butler, said:
“People from a range of nationalities have had to flee the conflict in Syria. They have travelled to many places. So the recognition of this reality is very positive. As a Church, we remain strongly committed to playing our part in helping all who come to our communities through this scheme to be made welcome.”