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Refugees and Asylum seekers

As a result of the refugee crisis, people are arriving – or will arrive – in the UK under different schemes:

  • Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme – resettlement of up to 20,000 Syrians in need of protection.
  • Vulnerable Children Resettlement Scheme or ‘Children at Risk scheme’ – resettlement of up to 3,000 vulnerable and refugee children at risk and their families from the Middle East and North Africa region.
  • Dubs amendment – resettlement of unaccompanied asylum seeking children already in European refugee camps in France, Greece or Italy.
  • Dublin III Regulation – children/close family/dependents reuniting to have their asylum claim dealt with together

Refugees are also arriving by their own means and applying for asylum from within the UK. In addition to this there are two programmes run in partnership with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

What is the difference between a refugee and an asylum seeker?

The terms Asylum seeker and refugee are often confused.

‘Asylum seeker’ means a person who has applied for asylum under the 1951 Refugee Convention on the Status of Refugees on the grounds that they have a well-founded fear of persecution should they return to their home country.

‘Refugee’ means an asylum seeker whose claim has been successful. More broadly, it means a person fleeing their home country for reasons such as war, but not necessarily fearing persecution as above.

What else are Local Authorities doing to support refugees?

In addition to the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme, there are two other programmes for the resettlement of refugees: the Gateway Protection Programme, and the Mandate Refugee Programme. These are run in partnership with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. The Gateway Protection Programme offers a legal route for a specific number of particularly vulnerable refugees to settle in the UK each year. The annual quota is 750. The Mandate Refugee Programme allows refugees from around the world with close family ties with the UK to be resettled.

In the year ending June 2015, a total of 809 people were resettled in the UK through these schemes.

What else are Local Authorities doing to support asylum seekers?

Many arrive in the UK as “spontaneous Asylum Seekers”, ie. those who enter the UK and apply for asylum from within/upon arrival in the UK outside of the three existing programmes for resettlement.

There were 25,771 asylum applications in the year ending June 2015, and increase of 10% compared with the previous year. The number of applicants remains low relative to the peak number of applications in 2002 (84,132). Of these 11,600 were granted asylum at their initial decision (41%), many who are not accepted will then go through the appeals process.

London is an attractive and welcoming city to asylum seekers because of its existing migrant communities, its strong economy with unrivalled employment opportunities, and wealth of expertise in supporting refugees. For these reasons, London is home to many asylum seekers who are able to support themselves while their application for asylum is considered - although they won't be able to work or claim benefits. Where an asylum seeker is unable to support themselves Home Office provide essential accommodation and support services. Under this scheme, asylum seekers are not able to choose where they live and, due to the high cost of accomodation in the capital, are more likely to be dispersed to areas outside of London and the South East. Nevertheless, London takes around 3,000 supported asylum seekers, and London Councils is engaging with the Home Office to consider what this support should look like in the future and how it can be improved.