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What is Shropshire Council doing?
We're looking into how we can support the government’s policy to support Syrian refugees. A cross-party working group has been set up, supported by senior officers who will be coordinating the resettlement of Syrian refugees in Shropshire. The group's working closely with the government's Regional Strategic Migration Partnership (RSMP) to put in place arrangements to house and support refugees who may come to Shropshire. Current group members include:
- Councillors representing each of the political parties
- Shropshire Council adult, children, safeguarding and housing services
- Voluntary and Community Sector Assembly
- West Mercia Police
- Shropshire’s Clinical Commissioning Group
- Shropshire Fire and Rescue
This isn't an exhaustive list of representatives. As our plans progress, we'll continue to work with businesses, charities, faith and other community groups. Our plan of action includes identifying accommodation, collating offers of support, reviewing health requirements and other key support services.
Why are you doing this?
We're committed to supporting the government’s request for councils to volunteer to help those refugees fleeing from the crisis in Syria.
Refugees are not a new phenomenon. History has shown the devastating consequences of war and the displacement of people. In the UK and in Shropshire, we have a proud history of offering refuge for people in crisis, from those displaced in Europe following the Second World War to refugees fleeing from recent conflicts and disasters further afield.
We're living in an increasingly globalised world where the economic and political events in one country can have far-reaching ramifications for people on the other side of the world, including ourselves. Therefore, as part of this global community, we have a responsibility to ensure that people, regardless of their place of birth, have the basic human rights to food, shelter and security.
We feel we have a humanitarian duty to support these refugees fleeing the Syrian crisis, and as a county we believe we must do what we can to help. This issue is beyond politics – it’s about doing the right thing as decent people.
How many refugees will Shropshire be taking?
The government has said the UK, supported by councils, will take 20,000 refugees over the next five years. Shropshire Council has agreed to take ten Syrian refugee families. This will be approximately 50 people including children.
How do you know these people will be genuine refugees not economic migrants?
We'll only be taking refugees through the Home Office scheme. Checks will take place on people before they come to the UK, which will be done through the UN’s High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR).
Where are the refugees coming from?
They'll come from specific refugee camps in and around Syria that the Home Office has identified under the government’s Syrian Vulnerable Persons Relocation (VPR) Scheme.
Where will you house these families?
We know that Shropshire has a shortage of social housing and has seen a significant increase in demand for what exists. We'll be looking to accommodate these families in the private rented sector. This is likely to be in Shropshire’s larger towns, where there's good access to community and faith group support, as well as access to a Jobcentre Plus.
Will these people get preferential treatment for housing?
No – based on current government information, they would be treated in exactly the same way as anyone else in the county.
Will this affect people already on the housing waiting list?
There will be no change in their status. Any Syrian refugees would be treated in exactly the same way as anyone else in the county.
Why aren't you doing the same to help homeless people in the county?
We have a statutory duty for homelessness. As part of this, we offer housing options advice and support to anyone, including a duty to provide temporary accommodation for those that meet set criteria. We also have a homelessness strategy and work with a range of organisations to prevent homelessness in Shropshire. This won't change.
Is it true many of those coming will be unaccompanied children?
The Home Office hasn't yet allocated any refugee nominations to councils so we don't know who we'll be asked to take, but it's unlikely that unaccompanied minors will come to the UK as the UNHCR policy is to try to place with relatives wherever possible.
Who's paying for this and how much will it cost?
The first 12 months of a refugee's resettlement costs are fully funded by central government using the overseas aid budget. Although details are still being developed, the government has committed to also provide additional longer term funding to assist with costs incurred in subsequent years. We're looking at this very closely and await further information from the government.
When council services are being cut how will you meet the extra costs of taking refugees?
Shropshire is facing unprecedented cuts in its government funding. Since 2012 we've had to cut £126 million of spending on local services. By 2021 a further £77 million will have been cut from the money available to spend on services.
As part of the country’s commitment to help refugees we believe Shropshire should do its bit to help in this humanitarian crisis. It's difficult to put an accurate figure on it at this stage. Costs will vary depending on the specific needs of the individuals and families moving to the county, and the types of services they require in addition to accommodation.
However, there are significant ongoing costs associated with resettlement, and while we welcome the government’s commitment to meet those costs in the first year, we'd urge them to provide clear assurances over funding to meet long-term costs. The Local Government Association is working with the government to ensure that appropriate funding is in place to support councils to resettle refugees as part of the UK’s commitment.
How long will refugees stay here?
Syrian refugees will be granted five years' humanitarian protection under the government’s Syrian Vulnerable Person’s Relocation Scheme, after which they can either return home (if safe) or apply to settle here under the usual Home Office rules.
What will the public support entail?
Refugees will have faced incredible hardships and are likely to require support with housing. Others may need education, training and healthcare services. We'll work closely with some of our local organisations to ensure they provide the additional social support refugees need.
If you'd like to provide support and assistance, or volunteer your time to help families to integrate into local communities, please contact our dedicated refugee mailbox at firstname.lastname@example.org
Will Syrian refugees be entitled to benefits?
Under the government scheme, they would have access to the same benefits as any other borough resident. Those resettled under the government scheme will arrive with refugee status allowing them to work and have access to benefits.
What's an unaccompanied asylum-seeking child?
An unaccompanied asylum-seeking child is outside his or her country of origin, under 18 years of age, and has not been accompanied by a close relative when travelling to the UK. Children may be fleeing persecution from any part of the world.
Children who arrive in the UK on their own should be supported by social services. They're normally granted discretionary leave to remain in the UK until their eighteenth birthday, unless the Home Office is able to ensure that the child will be suitably looked after if returned to their home country.
Where do the children and young people come from?
In recent years significant numbers of unaccompanied asylum seeking children have come from Afghanistan, Iran and Eritrea.
Do you have a statutory duty to support UASC?
International law and guidance is clear that children can be refugees in their own right and should receive special protection in the process. Local authorities also have a duty to provide additional support for asylum seeking and refugee children who are ‘looked after’ under section 20 of the Children Act 1989.
Children who arrive in the UK on their own should be supported by the local authority’s children’s services. Many of the pressures on asylum seekers are magnified for young people who arrive in the United Kingdom alone. Many may come from unstable social situations and have high levels of anxiety or emotional distress as a result of the trauma of leaving their home country and their initial experiences of the host country. Being separated from their main carer, many will receive inadequate support in their new environment. This can compound feelings of isolation. They can face many difficulties accessing mainstream services. They may be more vulnerable to emotional or mental health problems, discrimination and racism.
You said you're taking up to 42 unaccompanied asylum seeker children and young people in Shropshire as part of the government's UASC scheme. Will those children and young people from Calais be additional to this?
No, any children or young people coming from Calais will form part of the 42 we’ve agreed to take.
Can I help by fostering a Syrian child refugee?
The government's relocation programme for Syrian refugees doesn't include unaccompanied children. They would arrive in family groups, so the question of fostering doesn't arise in such cases. However, Shropshire Council has an ongoing need for more foster carers across all groups of children who, for whatever reason, are unable to live with their parents or extended families. This also includes unaccompanied asylum-seeking children.