Announced by the Home Secretary in January, the VPR scheme will provide protection in this country to particularly vulnerable Syrian refugees who are at grave risk.
It is operating in conjunction with the UNHCR, who are helping the government identify those individuals who are most vulnerable and cannot be adequately protected in the region.
Immigration Minister James Brokenshire said:
I am pleased to confirm that the first group of Syrians have now arrived in the UK.
We believe this VPR scheme will make a real difference to the lives of some of the most vulnerable Syrians by giving them protection and support in the UK.
We also remain committed to providing regional support to those affected by the crisis. We have donated £600m to the relief effort so far, making the UK the largest bi-lateral donor after the USA.
Those admitted under the VPR scheme will be granted five years’ Humanitarian Protection, with all the rights and benefits that go with that status. This includes access to public funds, access to the labour market and the possibility of family reunion.
A number of local authorities have already signed up to support the relocation scheme, with further discussions ongoing with other authorities.
UNHCR representative to the UK Roland Schilling said:
With today’s arrival of the first Syrian refugee families under the VPR scheme, the UK has joined international efforts to provide solutions for Syrian refugees in the form of resettlement or relocation to safe third countries.
“We welcome the UK’s contribution as these are critical and life-saving interventions for refugees with urgent protection needs and compelling vulnerabilities.
Humanitarian admissions and resettlement are part of our protection strategy for Syrian refugees. As much as they provide solutions for vulnerable individuals and families, these efforts are also a concrete gesture of solidarity and burden sharing with countries in the region currently hosting more than 2 and a half million Syrian refugees.
The VPR scheme has been designed to focus on need rather than to satisfy a quota, but it is anticipated that it will support several hundred people over the next three years. The next group of refugees are expected to arrive in April.
In addition to the VPR scheme, the government continues to offer humanitarian support both in the region and within the UK.
Since the beginning of the conflict, the UK has received around 3,800 Syrian asylum seekers and we are a leading contributor to the EU’s Regional Protection Programme.
The UK continues to advise against all travel to Syria, even for people travelling for well-intentioned humanitarian reasons.
These individuals are exposing themselves to serious risk, including being targeted for recruitment by terrorist groups.
The best way to help the humanitarian situation in Syria is through aid, donations and volunteer work which can make a real difference, and there are many opportunities in Britain to make that difference.