It has been announced today (Thursday 21 April) that the government will work with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to resettle children and adults from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.
In January, the government announced that it had commissioned the UNHCR to develop and lead a new initiative to resettle vulnerable children impacted by the conflict in the Middle East.
The new scheme will be specifically tailored to support vulnerable and refugee children at risk and their families. Several hundred individuals will be resettled over the next year with a view of resettling up to 3,000 over the lifetime of this Parliament.
On the UNHCR’s recommendation, the scheme will not solely target unaccompanied children, but will also extend to vulnerable children at risk, such as those threatened with child labour, child marriage and other forms of abuse or exploitation. It will be open to all ‘at risk’ groups and nationalities within the region.
The new scheme, which is the largest resettlement effort aimed specifically at children at risk from the MENA region, is in addition to the government’s commitment to resettle 20,000 Syrian refugees under the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme (VPRS).
The VPRS has already resettled over 1,000 Syrian refugees, over half of them children, and is expected to resettle several thousand Syrian children over the next 4 years.
Immigration Minister James Brokenshire said:
The UK government is committed to providing life-saving support and assistance to the vulnerable children who have been unjustly impacted by this ongoing humanitarian crisis.
We have always been clear that the vast majority of vulnerable children are better off remaining in host countries in the region so they can be reunited with surviving family members. However, there are exceptional circumstances in which it is in a child’s best interests to be resettled in the UK.
We have engaged with the UNHCR and a number of NGOs on the best way to provide protection to refugee children and ensure their welfare and safety remain at the heart of every decision made. This new scheme compliments our ongoing work within Europe to assist vulnerable migrant children. This includes the £10 million Refugee Children Fund to identify and support vulnerable children and strengthen child protection and family reunification systems.
More information on how to help refugees in the UK is available.
You can also read the written ministerial statement.