I AM proud of our country’s historic and continued record in providing refuge to those fleeing conflict or persecution.
Since the European refugee crisis started, following the outbreak of the brutal civil war in Syria and instability in the Middle-East and North Africa, the UK has provided a safe haven to thousands of vulnerable families, individuals, and children, often with the support of the Church.
Our world-leading Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme (VPRS) has brought thousands of people to the UK to rebuild their lives. We have seen countless examples of refugees, rescued from this conflict zone, thrive on entering the UK, through working, studying, and supporting their local communities.
It was with great sadness that we, along with the UN and countries around the world, had to pause resettlement programmes (Comment, 4 September), owing to coronavirus restrictions brought in to protect public health, especially as we were so close to reaching our goal of resettling 20,000 people through the VPRS.
We have always said that we would reopen these routes when it is safe to do so. I am pleased that, last week, we announced that we are able to reopen the scheme, to enable us to meet this historic milestone and deliver our commitment.
SINCE September 2015, we have resettled more than 25,000 refugees, about half of whom are children. In that time, the UK has been among the top five resettlement countries worldwide, and has resettled more refugees from outside Europe than any EU member state.
But resettlement is not the only way in which we provide people with protection. In the year ending June 2020, 6320 refugee family-reunion visas were issued to partners and children of those previously granted asylum or humanitarian protection in the UK. And, since 2010, we have granted protection or another form of leave to more than 44,000 children.
This is where our immigration system needs to focus — on safe and legal routes to the UK. That is why the Home Secretary announced an overhaul of the system, to fix our broken asylum system and make sure that it is firm and fair.
It must be fair and work for the vulnerable, allowing refugees to thrive. And it must be firm, to crack down on abuse of the system, so that we can focus our time and efforts in supporting those who need our help the most.
It is also why we recently made a commitment to reviewing safe and legal routes to the UK.
REOPENING resettlement routes is by no means a silver bullet, and it will not stop people from making dangerous Channel crossings overnight. Even when we were resettling more refugees, people were entering the country on lorries and in small boats. Increasing safe routes will not stop ruthless people-smugglers exploiting vulnerable people’s desperation.
But, coupling this with our tougher approach to stopping boats, tackling spurious asylum claims, and increasing returns, we can start to fix our broken asylum system.
Anyone fleeing conflict and persecution must know that they will find safety here. That is why, in addition to completing our commitment under the VPRS, we hope to be able to roll out a new global resettlement scheme, as soon as the pandemic restrictions allow, to expand our offer to UN-mandated refugees from other regions of conflict and instability in the world.
The UK is a beacon of hope for the persecuted and displaced around the world, as it must continue to be for vulnerable people needing protection the world over.
Chris Philp MP is Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Minister for Immigration Compliance and the Courts) at the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice.