Refugee Crisis - People and Housing Providers are Desperate to Assist

Press release from Positive Action in Housing, 30 October 2015, in response to claims by Parliament's Home Affairs Committee that the UK may not have the capacity to take in the proposed 20,000 Syrian refugees by 2020

The U.K. government has said it won't use refugee hosting to accommodate Syrian refugees, yet the Home Affairs Committee chairman Keith Vaz has said the UK may not be "prepared" for the number of Syrian refugees the government plans to accept, and that the UK government should reconsider its decision not to accept the generosity of the public's offers of assistance and space in their homes."

Commenting on this, Robina Qureshi, Director of Positive Action in housing said:

"Positive Action in Housing pioneered safe refugee hosting for vulnerable people in 2004. We have over 2,100 refugee hosts all over Scotland and the U.K. who have registered their homes, houses, and spare rooms with us to take refugees in now for a period of months, years or indefinitely.

We are actively housing people every day and are offering this scheme as a way of accommodating Syrian and other refugees. We are also working with the Scottish housing movement to build its capacity to respond to the Syria crisis. If a small charity based in Glasgow can offer 2,100 homes through refugee hosting all over the UK then it shows us that the true capacity of this country to take in refugees right now is much higher than the UK Government wants to admit.

Housing is critical, and if you combine the housing associations and private homes willing to offer spaces , rooms, homes, land and multiple properties to refugees then we have the capacity to assist refugees taking death boats to Europe in order to get here. What we know is that people and housing providers are desperate to assist now."

The findings of the Home Affairs Committee's latest Report on the Work of the Immigration Directorates include:

  • The number of asylum seekers and other migrants detained for administrative purposes in the UK has increased
  • It noted a "sudden increase" in the numbers of children being detained in 2015, saying this was "unacceptable" after the government said it would stop doing this
  • On the government's 100,000 immigration cap, the report said that an immigration target with an "arbitrary figure" was difficult to achieve. It suggested the government should "look again" at the issue of whether student numbers should be included in the figure
  • It said the backlog of immigration cases at the Home Office stands at 318,159. The report said the biggest contributor to this is the "migration refusal pool" - made up of people whose temporary or permanent migration application has been refused but whose whereabouts is unknown to the authorities

Syrian refugees in the UK

  • 20,000 more refugees will be resettled in the UK by 2020
  • 4,980 Syrian asylum seekers have been allowed to stay since 2011, but only 553 under the Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme.
  • 25,771 people applied for asylum in the UK in the year to end June 2015
  • 2,204 were from Syria, many Syrians blocked at Calais or on the razor wire boarder of Europe.
  • 87% of Syrian requests for asylum were granted
  • 145 Syrian asylum seekers have been removed from the UK since 2011

Commenting on the concern about the number of Syrian refugees the UK plans to accept, Richard Harrington, minister responsible for Syrian refugees, said the government planned to resettle 1,000 Syrians "by Christmas".

"We have already welcomed and successfully resettled a number of vulnerable people who were in desperate need of our help," he said.

"The scale of the expansion needs careful planning to ensure we get it right.

"That is why we are continuing to work closely with the UNHCR, local government associations, NGOs and partner organisations in order to resettle 20,000 people by the end of this Parliament."

He said there were plans to create a register of people willing to provide housing for refugees and to develop a "community sponsorship scheme" so members of the public and groups could give direct support.