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Vulnerable Syrian Families

Volume 639: debated on Monday 16 April 2018

It is important that we focus our support on the most vulnerable refugees in the region who are fleeing the atrocities in Syria, whatever their nationality. We are more than halfway towards reaching our commitment to resettle 20,000 refugees. As of December, 10,538 refugees had been welcomed in the UK under the scheme. We will continue to work closely with local authorities and devolved Administrations to ensure that we meet our commitments.

Northumberland County Council is providing homes and resettlement family support for 28 Syrian adults and their 41 children, but we currently have no Syrian refugee children as we are short of foster carers to provide the necessary support. Does the Minister agree that we must encourage people who want to support those Syrian children to apply to be foster carers?

I am very grateful to all the local authorities, including Northumberland County Council, that have participated in both the resettlement scheme and the national transfer scheme for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children. Northumberland County Council recently received funding through the controlling migration fund to boost its capacity to look after unaccompanied asylum-seeking children. The Government are reviewing funding arrangements for local authorities that look after unaccompanied asylum-seeking children. In last year’s safeguarding strategy, the Government committed to further boosting fostering capacity, including by commissioning 1,000 training places for foster carers and support workers who are caring for unaccompanied children.

Is my right hon. Friend continuing to work closely with local authorities? She mentioned a figure of 10,500, but how is she doing at meeting the 20,000 target within a couple of years?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right to highlight the importance of working collaboratively with local authorities. We also work hard with charities, housing associations and civic society to help refugees on the road to integration. During the recess, I was fortunate to visit World Jewish Relief, Coventry City Council and Horton Housing, among others, which are working with resettled families who are being helped into work as part of their integration. He is right to mention the 20,000 target and I am absolutely confident that we will reach it by 2020.

Families belong together, and vulnerable refugee families from Syria in particular belong together. Will the Minister use the opportunity of the current attention on Syria to commit the Government to standing by Members on both sides of the House who support the Refugees (Family Reunion) (No. 2) Bill, the private Member’s Bill promoted by the hon. Member for Na h-Eileanan an Iar (Angus Brendan MacNeil)?

I thank the hon. Lady for that question; I am conscious of her keen interest in this subject. She will of course know that, since 2010, 24,000 family reunion visas have been issued, but I will look very carefully at the Bill from the hon. Member for Na h-Eileanan an Iar (Angus Brendan MacNeil), which has received cross-party support. We will continue to look at what we can do to help the most vulnerable families from the region. They should, quite rightly, be our priority.