Amnesty International briefing: Syrian Refugees Activists around the UK have been campaigning tirelessly on the Syrian refugee resettlement issue. We’ve been raising this issue through protest actions, the #OpenToSyria online photo action, lobbying local councils to find places for Syrian families, and writing to MPs and Government ministers.
Here are a few facts and figures which may be useful if you’re talking about Syrian refugees.
There are 3.8 million Syrian refugees now sheltering in the region; Egypt (137,000), Lebanon (1.7 m), Turkey (1.6 m), Jordan (622,000) and Iraq (235,000).
The number of Syrian refugees in Lebanon is now equivalent to a quarter of Lebanon’s population prior to the Syrian crisis. The situation there is particularly difficult and Lebanon is now restricting access into the country for refugees fleeing Syria.
The UN says that 380,000 vulnerable Syrian refugees need resettling in countries outside the region; vulnerable people are identified when registering as refugees with the UN and they are usually female headed households, survivors of torture, people with serious medical needs or disabilities, and LBGTQ people. However, only around 100,000 resettlement places have been offered globally so far
The 1951 Refugee Convention was developed in response to the refugee crisis created by WWII and the concept of international burden sharing is integral to the Convention which recognises that states must collectively and globally share responsibility for refugees in such crisis times.
Refugees have a lack of access to employment, education, healthcare and psychosocial support. There have been cases in Egypt and Turkey where refugees have been deported back to Syria in contravention of international law.
Entering Europe: Syrians are crossing into Bulgaria and Hungary overland through Turkey (as shown in The Dublin Pitfall film) or via boat in the Mediterranean and reaching Italy and Greece. In 2014 an estimated 3,000 Syrians died in the Mediterranean making the journey to Europe.
Sweden (2,700)and Germany (35,000) have offered the majority of European resettlement places
The UK promised to take ‘several hundred’ of the most vulnerable Syrian refugees, but just 187 have arrived so far. However there are recent precedents for special refugee resettlement programmes in the UK; The UK government admitted 12,000 Iraqis between 1991 and 2001, 14,000 Iraqis between 2003 and 2013 and over 4,000 Kosovars in 1996
There have been around 6,000 asylum applications by Syrians in the UK since the crisis. The UK Government recently tightened up visa rules, apparently in order to prevent “abuse” of the system. Now Syrians travelling through the UK have to apply for a special transit visa, 60% of which are refused.
The UK under this scheme so far, despite over 5 million Syrian refugees being forced to live in camps in Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon.
Malvern Hills District Council has expressed willingness to house 12 families, about 50 individuals, but has not received the necessary support from Worcestershire County Council because of concerns that the funding provided by central government is only for the first year after refugees are resettled.
Other authorities in the UK have taken part in the scheme for more than twelve months and have had no problem with continuing funding. It appears that Worcestershire County Council lacks the political will to go ahead.
Please write to the Malvern Gazzette or Observer with letters of support for the initiative. Also, please write to your local district and county councillor copying your e-mail to the MP for West Worcestershire, Mrs Harriett Baldwin, email@example.com, saying why you believe Malvern and Worcestershire should welcome a small number of Syrian refugee families.
All the conservative Councillors voted against at the most recent MHDC meeting. You can find the councillor for your ward on:http://moderngov.malvernhills.gov.uk/mgMemberIndex.aspx?FN=WARD&VW=LIST&PIC=0&J=2
Young leaders from Croydon Citizens put up tents outside Croydon council yesterday to draw attention to Citizens UK’s campaign to resettle at least 1500 refugees in the UK. The students, from Croydon College, held signs saying ‘BE THE FIRST’ in order to encourage leader of the council Cllr Tony Newman to make Croydon the first Labour council to agree to resettle 50 Syrian refugees.
A delegation then delivered a letter to Cllr Newman requesting a meeting in January to discuss this important issue.
Shanice Henry, a student from Croydon College and a Croydon Citizens leader said:
“The UK is the 6th richest country in the world and we need to be doing our fair share to resettle vulnerable refugees. Croydon is a welcoming borough that is proud of its diversity and we need to be at the forefront of this campaign.”
The conflict in Syria has created an unprecedented refugee crisis in the Middle East. There are now more than 3 million refugees from Syria alone – greater than the total population of Wales! The UK has been very reluctant to offer resettlement opportunities, and has resettled less than a hundred people from Syria through the Vulnerable Persons Relocation programme so far.
There is currently a quota of 750 refugees to be resettled in the UK every year. In the lead up to the general election, Citizens UK is calling for that quota to be increased to at least 1500.
Citizens UK is calling for local authorities to pledge to resettle 50 refugees and then work with us, the UN and the UK government to make it happen. If just 15 UK local authorities agree to take on 50 refugees, we could double the number of refugees resettled in the UK annually.
The Leader of Kingston Council, Cllr Kevin Davis, was the first Conservative leader to commit to the scheme and Croydon Citizens hope that Croydon will be the first Labour council.