What is the difference between asylum and resettlement?
Asylum and resettlement are separate processes. They reflect two routes through which refugees may find sanctuary in the UK. In both cases people are often fleeing the same conflicts. But there are also a few differences:
- Resettlement programmes identify refugees in camps near to their country of origin. They are then flown to the UK with full refugee status and do not enter the asylum system.
- Asylum seekers are those who have already arrived in the UK. Because the UK offers no ‘asylum visa’, there are no safe, legal ways for a refugee to reach the UK to claim asylum. This means that asylum seekers have often made risky, treacherous journeys to arrive here.
The UK’s commitment to resettle refugees includes:
- The Syrian Vulnerable Person Resettlement Scheme.
- The Full Community Sponsorship Scheme.
- The Dubs’ Amendment for Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children.
- The Vulnerable Children’s Resettlement Scheme (with UNHCR).
Why are refugees coming to the UK? Are they not better off nearer to their country of origin?
Most people fleeing war and persecution move within their own country or move to a neighbouring country. There are 19.5 million refugees globally – 86% of these are hosted in developing countries and remain close to their homeland. Turkey, Pakistan and Lebanon, for example, host the largest numbers.
Currently, almost one in four of the world’s refugees are Syrian, and 95% of these are hosted in surrounding countries. Many remain close to Syria because they want to see a political settlement and return home as soon as it is safe to do so.
People coming to the UK as part of the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme are particularly vulnerable and will have been assessed as needing urgent resettlement.
Is it really our problem? On many occasions (but not all) the UK has responded generously to the needs of those forced out of their homes because of conflict. On humanitarian grounds, the UK has an obligation* (shared with other nations) to provide sanctuary to those forced to flee their homes and their countries. And we have a particular responsibility to help those attempting to cross the Mediterranean – as three of the top four nationalities making this dangerous journey are Syrians, Afghans and Iraqis. These people are fleeing countries where conflict has been violent and protracted, and where the UK has played a role. The UK might not be responsible for the refugee crisis, but that’s not to say that our actions do not leave us with a responsibility towards those who are affected.
*The Refugee Convention – which outlines international obligations to protect those feeling war, torture and oppression – was drafted following the Holocaust in the wake of the persecution and death of millions of innocent people. To date, no country has repealed their commitment to welcome refugees.
What happens to children who enter the UK illegally?
The UK Government has a legal duty to provide care and protection for Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children (UASC) who reach the UK illegally. Care is provided by the local social services department in the area the child is found.
Currently the counties in the South East of England bear the greatest burden of care for UASC as many are smuggled by people traffickers across the English Channel.
There is a significant shortage of foster care placements for these children.
What is the national transfer scheme?
The National Transfer Scheme was launched in July 2016 and aims to ensure that the care of Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children (UASC) is shared fairly across the UK’s local authorities.
The intention is that UASC comprise no more than 0.07% of the total child population in any given local authority area. It’s a voluntary scheme and local authorities do not have to transfer children.