THE intention of the Archbishop of Canterbury to offer sanctuary to two refugee families within Lambeth Palace has been delayed by red tape.
Archbishop Welby promised a four-bedroom cottage to refugees in September, shortly after a group of 84 C of E bishops and senior clergy wrote a letter to the Prime Minister, urging him to accept a further 30,000 refugees into the UK on top of the 20,000 promised by 2020 (News, 16 October).
Lambeth Palace confirmed on Monday that, after waiting for an allocation of refugees from Lambeth Council, it was now working with the Home Office to find an alternative in the form of a “community sponsorship programme”.
A Home Office spokesperson said that the programme would “allow individuals, charities, faith groups, churches, and businesses to support people directly. We are currently working with the individuals and groups who have made offers of assistance, in order to develop a sustainable model for helping these vulnerable people settle and integrate in the UK, and . . . to find employment.”
A spokeswoman for Lambeth Palace said: “We are [still] preparing accommodation in the grounds of Lambeth Palace, but recognise that there needs to be due process before a family arrives.
"This Home Office programme will enable direct community involvement in supporting Syrian refugees.”
Lambeth Palace told The Sunday Times at the weekend that officials had first begun working on an alternative route — inviting Christian refugees from the diocese in Egypt — after experiencing frustrating delays with the government-backed programme. The idea was later dropped, however, to avoid unfairly offering a “golden ticket” to one or two families.
The co-ordinator of the National Refugees Welcome Board, Tim Finch, said on Sunday: “It’s frustrating that voluntary offers to help house Syrians, like that made by the Archbishop, aren’t being taken up at the moment.”