CHURCH leaders have welcomed the Government’s decision to extend its Syrian Vulnerable Person Resettlement Programme to non-Syrian refugees. The commitment to accommodating 20,000 Syrian refugees in the UK by 2020 was made by the former Prime Minister David Cameron, in response to the Mediterranean crisis, in 2015.
The Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, announced on Monday that refugees of all nationalities would be now supported. The target would remain the same. It came after advice from the UNHCR that a “diversified resettlement scheme” was required to address the needs of the refugee population in the region.
The Home Office announced that more than 7300 Syrian refugees identified by the UN agency had been brought to the UK from government-run camps bordering Syria, up to March. “It is vitally important that we focus our support on the most vulnerable refugees in the region who have fled the atrocities in Syria, whatever their nationality,” Ms Rudd said.
“I am proud that the UK is continuing to be proactive, and by expanding the scheme we are making sure our doors continue to remain open to the people who most need our help. We will continue to work with local authorities and the UNHCR, whose hard work so far has made sure that the scheme is a success.”
The Bishop of Durham, the Rt Revd Paul Butler, who is the Church of England’s lead bishop on refugees, told the House of Lords: “People from a range of nationalities have had to flee the conflict in Syria. They have travelled to many places. So the recognition of this reality is very positive. As a Church, we remain strongly committed to playing our part in helping all who come to our communities through this scheme to be made welcome.”
The Bishop of Croydon, the Rt Revd Jonathan Clark, who is chair of the Churches Refugee Network, said that the extension was a “positive” move.
“The Church is very glad to be working with the Government and with many local communities across the country in developing community sponsorship for those coming to this country under the scheme. We will continue to work, both locally and nationally, to offer a welcome and assistance to all those who come seeking sanctuary here.”
The RC Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, also welcomed the announcement. “The devastating conflict in and around Syria has affected people of many different nationalities,” he said. “Resettlement opportunities for those who have particular needs that cannot be met in the region are a vital complement to the international community’s wider humanitarian response.”