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Syrian Refugees

Volume 607: debated on Monday 7 March 2016

1. What steps she is taking to provide additional educational support to young Syrian refugees resettled in the UK. (903895)

It is part of our moral responsibility to ensure that Syrian refugees who are resettled in the United Kingdom receive appropriate support, especially those young children who take refuge here. The International Organisation for Migration assesses the needs of each Syrian refugee to be resettled in the UK, including any educational support required by children. Those assessments help to ensure that the necessary arrangements are in place, and that the needs of these young Syrians are met.

The Scottish Government currently fund a guardianship service that is unique to Scotland that offers specific support with welfare, education and the immigration process to local authorities and unaccompanied children. Will the UK Government follow in the Scottish Government’s footsteps and increase support for young refugees in the UK?

I think we all agree that those who are seeking refuge from war-torn areas and conflict zones where they have been in situations of immense stress and disruption need all the support they can get. We have a system of appointing caseworkers who work with each family or individual who comes here to seek refuge, to identify their needs. In particular, they ensure that children with special educational needs or mental health needs get support, as well as those who have additional educational issues such as needing extra language support.

Following the Government’s welcome decision on 28 January to provide additional refuge for unaccompanied minors coming from conflict zones such as Syria, but also from Europe, what discussions have been held in the Department about providing additional support for those who reach these shores, and to provide them with the effective support they need?

My hon. Friend recently visited the camp in Calais, and he will know that a cross-Government taskforce has been set up to ensure that all those who claim asylum or come to live in the United Kingdom under the resettlement programme get that support. In my previous answer I outlined the particular areas that my Department takes an interest in, and we must ensure that support is delivered for those with special educational needs, mental health needs, and those who require additional educational support such as language support.

I welcome the steps taken so far. What we have learned from previous arrivals of refugees—for example the Ugandan Asians who came to Leicester many years ago—is that the involvement of the diaspora community is extremely important to make people feel at home. What steps have been taken to ensure that the Syrian diaspora is involved in this process?

The Government are extremely sensitive to working right the way across the United Kingdom, particularly with local authorities, and to consider the backgrounds of those coming here and their particular needs. Some will, of course, want to be near to those from their communities and the diaspora; for others there may be reasons why perhaps that is not right, given their particular needs. Great care is taken. People’s needs are assessed and then they are given a guarantee that housing, education and other provision will be ready and waiting when they arrive here.

Given that so far the resettlement and asylum dispersal programmes have been pretty unevenly matched across the country, what extra support can be given to local authorities that are taking in a large number of people? That is often matched with challenging situations in schools, in terms of both school places and school standards, and those areas need extra support.

We work right across the Government, and we have included powers in the Immigration Act 2014 to ensure that help is available to local authorities, particularly those that take in unaccompanied asylum-seeking children. Kent has taken many of those children, but they have also gone right across the country. Financial help is available through the budget of the Department for International Development, and we have committed £129 million to assist with local authority costs over years two to five of the resettlement scheme. There is additional help for children with special educational needs, and additional funding—including through the pupil premium—for those who have English as an additional language. It is, of course, right to highlight the problems, but the question from the right hon. Member for Leicester East (Keith Vaz), and my knowledge of the local area, show that those who come to this country can have huge success and make an enormous contribution to it. We must never forget that.