The initial meeting of the government’s new Syrian Refugees Ministerial Committee was held on Friday (11/09/15), to lead cross-government work to house and support the 20,000 Syrian refugees who will be resettled in the UK over the next five years.
The committee was set up by the Prime Minister and is jointly chaired by Home Secretary Theresa May and the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Greg Clark.
The committee includes senior ministers from all of the key departments – as well as key external partners, such as the Local Government Association (LGA).
The government has said that charities and faith institutions will also have the opportunity to contribute.
Last week, David Cameron announced that the UK would accept 20,000 of the most vulnerable refugees from Syria by 2020.
However, the election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader may pressure the government into accepting more refugees.
Mr Corbyn addressed a rally in support of refugees in central London, following his election on Saturday. He has called on the government to do its “duty under UN law” and offer more assistance and sanctuary to those displaced by war.
In the first six months of 2015, more than 220,000 people were recorded crossing the Mediterranean Sea to Europe.
Many were fleeing the conflict in Syria – more than 220,000 people have died in the war to date.
More than 11 million Syrians have also been forced to flee their homes. Germany has agreed to take 800,000 Syrian refugees this year and has said it will be able to accept a further 500,000 annually for the foreseeable future.
Germany has announced, however, that it will be reinstating border controls with Austria, contrary to the principle of the Schengen agreement, which allows free movement between EU member states.
The UK government is taking part in the UN’s programme to resettle refugees who have fled from their home countries – including those affected by conflict or civil war.
Since 2011, the UK has granted humanitarian protection to almost 5,000 Syrians through the UK’s asylum procedures.
A further 216 people have been relocated under the Syrian Vulnerable Persons scheme to date. The Syrian Vulnerable Persons scheme was launched in January 2014 and is the first resettlement programme run by the UK to target support for refugees specifically on the basis of their vulnerability.
So far the UK has accepted 216 people under the scheme based on their need, rather than fulfilling a quota.
The EU is calling for member states to accept a quota to help with the dispersal of refugees across Europe.
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