A Syrian family of three has recently been welcomed and resettled in Hackney.
Hackney is the only East London borough to have taken refugees from countries destroyed by war, bringing the number of refugees that have been flown over to the area to six.
Lisa Doyle, head of advocacy at the Refugee Council, told ELL: “The Refugee Council is really pleased that Hackney has stepped forward and offered to welcome Syrian refugees.”
The Syrian Vulnerable Persons Relocation programme established by the Government aims to welcome 20,000 refugees by the end of 2020, and it is working with the Hackney Refugee Forum, hosted by the Hackney Council for Voluntary Service.
The second family hosted in the East London borough, two parents and a child, has been living in a refugee camp run by the UN and was welcomed at the airport about 10 days ago by some Hackney council representatives and brought to their new home.
The resettlement scheme ensures that every family that – screened by the UN and Home Office before their arrival – has an integration caseworker for 12 months that will help them to integrate and rebuild their new life. The families are also granted humanitarian protection.
“The refugees are being selected from the established camps in Syria, and from elsewhere in Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon. Priority is being given to orphans and families with vulnerable children, and the refugees are being processed largely through the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Relocation scheme”, the council says.
Thanks to the SVPR the family now has the right to stay and work in the country for the next five years, alongside different benefits that other types of migrants or asylum seekers do not have.
The two Syrian families that arrived so far have been housed through the private rented sector, thanks to the organisation Citizens UK, a body that operates in five East London boroughs and brings people together to take action for power and social justice in disadvantaged communities.
The programme is funded by the Government, that provides £8,000 from the overseas aid budget per refugee for their first year of the stay. As the refugees that are part of the scheme have a humanitarian visa of five years, the future funding will most likely present some difficulties, as the support needed will probably exceed the fund agreed.
Zoe Gardener from Asylum Aid has expressed her fears regarding the future funding, telling the Hackney Citizen: “The government is only providing guaranteed funds for the first year to cover the cost of hosting these families, when obviously there might be costs that extend beyond that first period – and there’s no guarantee it won’t be the local council footing the bill.”
Mayor of Hackney Philip Glanville has made it clear that the resettlement programme must be supported by government funding throughout the whole length of the refugees’ stay, but that it cannot “take away from our own resources”.
As a consequence, the Home Office clarified that local authorities are entitled to get other types of support after the first years sponsored by the Government.
The borough of Hackney and Glanville have agreed to welcome between five and seven families of refugees from the Government-run scheme by the end of this year.
“The refugee problem will get worse and worse in near future, because of the economic crisis and conflicts’ negative effects around the world. Therefore, The problem cannot be solved even if Great Britain accepts 200,000 Syrian refugees instead of 20,000”, Ali Aksoy, the voluntary director of the Hackney Refugee Forum told ELL.
Although the process has been long and difficult, the programme has set an example for other areas across the UK to resettle more refugees and asylum seekers.
Lisa Doyle told ELL: “The Syrian refugee resettlement programme has been an example of Britain at its best as communities up and down the country have opened their doors and hearts to families who are in desperate need of shelter. Each refugee that Britain has resettled has had their life transformed, if not saved.
“The Government now must learn from the successes of this programme and use them to develop a national refugee integration strategy which ensures that all refugees in Britain – not just those who are resettled here – receive the specialist support they need to begin rebuilding their lives and settling into British life”.