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Refugee Settlement Programme

Volume 663: debated on Monday 15 July 2019

4. When he plans to announce details of the integrated programme to resettle an additional 5,000 refugees from 2020-21. (911920)

23. When he plans to announce details of the integrated programme to resettle an additional 5,000 refugees from 2020-21. (911939)

We continue to engage with international and domestic delivery partners and stakeholders, as we work through the detailed policy and operational considerations for the new global resettlement scheme. In the meantime, we continue towards our commitment of resettling 20,000 of the most vulnerable refugees affected by the conflict in Syria.

The Minister knows that I would like the ambition to be as high as possible. What plans has she got to consult refugees and refugee organisations about the lessons that can be learned from current resettlement schemes?

The hon. Lady will know—this is an ambition that I have often voiced to her—that we have sought to bring together the vulnerable persons resettlement scheme, the vulnerable children’s resettlement scheme and the gateway protection scheme, to consolidate our refugee programmes. We continue to work closely with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and indeed with those delivering the schemes, local authorities included. As part of the ambition—this is why we have given a figure in the region of 5,000—it is important that we learn from VPRS, work through local authorities to establish the number of people they can best assist through the schemes and make sure that we do not downgrade the good commitments we have previously given on resettlement.

Young adult asylum seekers often face unique and complex challenges to their mental health and wellbeing, with many having survived unimaginable experiences in their country of origin and during their long and treacherous journey to reach this country. In setting out details of the integrated programme to resettle an additional 5,000 refugees from 2020 to 2021, will the Minister commit to there being a youth welfare officer in every asylum accommodation and dispersed accommodation location, so that vulnerable, traumatised 18 to 25-year-olds receive the support that they need to recover from their experiences and can live as well as possible in the UK?

The hon. Lady is absolutely right to point out the distinction between the formal resettlement schemes referred to in the question and those young people who have made, in many instances, terrible and perilous journeys of many thousands of miles and who have travelled across the whole of Europe to get to these shores. It really is important that we work to support young asylum seekers; I am conscious that the largest numbers will be found in a small number of local authorities, particularly Croydon, Kent and Hillingdon, which work incredibly hard to support not only unaccompanied minors but those leaving the care system and those for whom we have a responsibility up to the age of 24 under the Children and Families Act 2014. It is crucial that we get this right; that is why I was so pleased to see the uplift in funding to local authorities for unaccompanied asylum seeking children.

Scotland has played a leading role in the current vulnerable persons resettlement scheme, resettling nearly 3,000 people across all Scotland’s local authorities. Recent opinion polls show strong support in Scotland for maintaining that commitment and, indeed, for improving on it. Will the Minister join me in welcoming Scotland’s success story, and will she commit, through the comprehensive spending review, to funding integration support for refugees under the new scheme at the same levels that are currently provided under the VPRS?

The hon. and learned Lady is absolutely right to point out the significant role that Scotland has played. In Jordan last summer, I was pleased to meet a family who were being resettled to East Ayrshire within a few days of my visit. It is important that we provide not only support for resettling people but the necessary integration, not least through the provision of English language teaching, which is a crucial component. She will know from previous comments I have made in this House that one of my big passions is ensuring that we assist those with refugee status into work and ensure that good schemes exist across the entire country to help them to do that.

Thank you, Mr Speaker. As well as Scottish local authorities, Scottish community groups are also planning to sponsor refugee families. I met representatives of Refugee Sponsorship Edinburgh in my constituency recently. This is the first group of people to do this in Scotland. They will be delighted that the UK Government have finally agreed that any refugees supported under the community sponsorship scheme will be additional to those resettled under the UK Government scheme. Will the Minister commit to ensuring that the new scheme will make it easier for named individuals to be resettled and for family members dispersed across the world to join refugees who have already been settled here? I am sure I am not alone in being approached regularly in my constituency surgery by refugees with those concerns.

The hon. and learned Lady is absolutely right to highlight the brilliant role played by community sponsorship schemes. They are absolutely the gold standard of resettlement. However, it is important that we continue to work with the UNHCR to ensure that it is the most vulnerable people who are resettled here, whether through community schemes or through the sponsorship of local authorities. It would be very wrong for us to use resettlement schemes to resettle people from safe third countries when many people across the middle east and north Africa region and across the world are in parlous situations and in real danger. They must always be our first priority.

In noting that the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr Sheerman) was chuntering from a sedentary position in evident disapproval of the length of an inquiry, I simply say to him in the gentlest possible spirit that I feel sure that, in his own mind, his own questions are never too long but merely fully developed.