Currently those arriving through the Syrian vulnerable persons resettlement scheme (VPRS) and the vulnerable children’s resettlement scheme (VCRS) are granted humanitarian protection and five years’ limited leave to remain. This entitles individuals to broadly the same benefits as British citizens. When the Syrian VPRS was launched in March 2014, it was decided that it was the most appropriate form of leave to grant for a number of reasons, including the processes in place at the time and the need to upscale quickly to respond to the urgent humanitarian situation.
At the beginning of the scheme, granting humanitarian protection allowed us to quickly assist and resettle the most vulnerable. As we have previously said, we have kept the policy under active review. We have listened to those who have raised concerns about the consequences, for those we resettle to the UK, of granting humanitarian protection rather than refugee leave. We have also taken the time to work through the policy and practical implementation issues in detail.
The decision to grant humanitarian protection was the right one at that time. However, while humanitarian protection recognises the need an individual has for international protection, it does not carry the same entitlements as refugee status, in particular, access to particular benefits, swifter access to student support for higher education and the same travel documents as those granted refugee status. Furthermore, we recognise that this policy is at odds with what happens to those Syrians who claim asylum in the UK and who are granted refugee status.
We think it is right to change the policy and now is the right time to make this change. Therefore, with effect from 1 July 2017, we will be granting those admitted under the VPRS and the VCRS refugee status and five years’ limited leave. Those who have been resettled under these programmes before this date will be given the opportunity to make a request to change their status from humanitarian protection to refugee status. We will publish more information on how individuals can do this in due course.
We can be proud of the contribution the UK is making to support refugees and we believe that this policy change better reflects the situation of those being resettled to the UK and the additional entitlements attached to refugee status will help these vulnerable people make the best start to their life in the UK.