Over the past year, our office has been working to help Syrian refugees fleeing civil war. Though there are many policies we advocated (and many we fought against), there are two specific issues we have fought for alongside interested charities and NGOs.
What we fought for
The first issue we fought for was to bring 3,000 of the most vulnerable unaccompanied minors in Europe to be brought to the United Kingdom. We hoped to push HM Government to do so through safe, sustainable means.
The second issue we have worked for is ensuring that HM Government holds up its pledge to resettle 20,000 Syrian refugees in the United Kingdom by the end of this Parliament.
What we have won so far
In the Immigration Act 2016, Part 5, the Government pledges to bring an unspecified number of unaccompanied minors from Europe to the UK. The language surrounding timing is vague, however, as it simply says ‘as soon as possible’ after the passage of this Act. To date, HM Government has been slow to bring unaccompanied minors to the United Kingdom. Answers from Lord Wimbledon regarding this issue have been vague and non-committal (see: https://www.theyworkforyou.com/wrans/?id=2016-06-07.HL509.h&s=speaker%3A13477#gHL509.q0). The answers being provided to Parliamentarians regarding the issue of unaccompanied minors offer no specific number, no timeline for action, and no true commitment to anything. This could be interpreted to mean 3,000 children – or 3. This is especially worrying as thousands of minors have gone missing in Europe since the beginning of this crisis.
As for the agreement to resettle 20,000 Syrian refugees in the United Kingdom by the end of this Parliamentary session, HM Government appears to be far behind. Assuming that the Government decided to bring over a proportionate number of refugees each year (which is dubious and could be seen as an attempt to delay until the crisis blows over), they are still far behind target numbers. Assuming 20,000 refugees over five years (the presumed end of this Parliament from when the agreement was made) would mean resettling 4,000 Syrian refugees each year. According to the latest figures put out by the Government in May 2016, only 1,854 refugees had been resettled under the Syrian VPR Scheme (see: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/immigration-statistics-january-to-march-2016/summary). This is less than 50% of the number of refugees who should be resettled by now.
What remains to be done
The Government will have to be continually held to account, otherwise it seems that they will simply shirk responsibility behind the veil of ‘best interests’ of others (when they really mean ‘evasion and delaying in our own best interest’). This involves continuing to ask questions, making speeches, and asking constituents to write to their representatives.
To see more about what Lord Roberts of Llandudno has been doing for this work, please see: