Press release

UK support offered to UN refugee agency

UK stands ready to provide resources and expertise to speed up help for most vulnerable Syrian refugees

Britain has offered resources and expertise to the UN’s refugee agency (UNHCR) to help speed up the resettlement to Britain of the most vulnerable Syrian refugees, International Development Secretary Justine Greening confirmed today.

The Syrian Vulnerable Person Relocation (VPR) scheme was set up last year to identify those who most needed help and bring them to the UK – including women and children at risk, survivors of torture and violence and those in severe need of medical care.

The scheme is operated in conjunction with the UNHCR to identify and prioritise the most vulnerable. The decision to take 20,000 additional Syrian refugees in the UK will require a significant scaling up of this process and the government has offered resources to boost the agency’s local teams to make sure they have additional capacity to carry out their vital work.

Justine Greening said:

Britain has been supporting millions of people caught up in the brutal Syria conflict right from its start four years ago. We’ve given more than £1 billion in aid – second only to the United States – for food, shelter, education and health services, helping the victims of this terrible tragedy rebuild their lives in host countries.

And we will use our expertise to help speed up the resettlement of 20,000 of the most vulnerable Syrian refugees from the region. This is not just morally the right thing to do, but it’s also the smart thing to do.

By taking refugees directly from camps in the region we are ensuring that we reach the most vulnerable, while our aid continues to support others to stay in the region rather than make the perilous journey to Europe.

Richard Harrington, Minister for Syrian Refugees, said:

We stand ready to provide additional expertise to assist the UNHCR in its vital work identifying those people in desperate need of our help.

As the UK prepares to welcome the first arrivals under our expanded Syrian refugee scheme, I am driving forward intensive work to ensure these individuals have all the support they need.

The scale of the expansion needs careful and meticulous planning to ensure we get it right. This week I chaired a meeting of more than 20 NGOs and partner organisations, who are all focused on working with us to find ways to support these refugees.

The Government will continue to work hand in hand with charities and local authorities to resettle 20,000 people over the course of this Parliament.

Justine Greening has spoken to the UN’s High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres, about possible requirements.

Wider discussions with the UNHCR on the type and scale of resources needed are ongoing. This is expected to include technical experts and support from the Department for International Development such as those who specialise in the protecting children or other vulnerable groups.

Notes to editors

  1. Since the start of the Syria crisis, the UK has committed more than £1 billion to help those affected by the conflict. This includes lifesaving supplies of food, clean water, shelter and medical care to people inside Syria and refugees in neighbouring countries. It also includes support to help children continue their education.
  2. More information on the response is available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/460679/DFID_Syria_Crisis_Response_Summary_14.09.15.pdf
  3. The Chancellor has confirmed that the UK will use foreign aid spending to support the thousands of Syrian refugees that will be taken in by the UK for the first year, funding asylum grants to cover housing and other costs from the Official Development Assistance budget.

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