Resettling Syrian refugees in the UK 'to cost more than half a billion pounds'

Syrian refugee stranded in a make-shift camp for refugees in Idomeni, north Greece Image copyright EPA
Image caption Thousands of refugees from Syria remain stranded at Greece's border with Macedonia

The government's pledge to resettle 20,000 Syrian refugees in the UK by 2020 will cost more than half a billion pounds, it has been revealed.

Syrian refugee minister Richard Harrington estimated the figure would be £589m.

Home Affairs Committee chairman Keith Vaz said the cost was "huge".

The Home Office said it was a "substantial level of funding" which would enable refugees to "rebuild their lives in save and secure surroundings".

The UK has already accepted more than 1,000 Syrian refugees, as part of the government's Vulnerable Persons Relocation (VPR) scheme.

The figures came to light in a written response to a parliamentary question from Labour's Coventry MP Jim Cunningham.


Mr Harrington's reply confirmed that the first year of the VPR scheme will be paid for through the UK's overseas aid budget, and that the government had already allocated £129m to help local authorities with costs for the remaining years.

But it is unclear where the remainder of the money will come from.

Mr Harrington said the scheme would cost:

  • £99m in 2016-2017
  • £129m in 2017-2018
  • £149m in 2018-2019
  • £83m in 2020-2021

But Mr Vaz said he had written to the prime minister for clarification.

"This is a huge figure," he added.

"As the Home Office refuses to provide regular updates on the numbers being resettled, or where they are being placed, there is an unacceptable lack of transparency in the use of these significant funds."

So far 1,194 Syrians have been resettled in the UK under the scheme, including 605 under-18s, according to government figures.

Local authorities can volunteer to take part in the VPR scheme and as of the beginning of December, 55 had signed up.

The government has previously signalled that the refugees getting resettled in the UK will be taken from established refugee camps.

How is the UK helping?

  • Under the Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme, the UK will accommodate 20,000 Syrian refugees
  • Refugees are being allowed to stay for five years, after which they can apply to settle in the UK
  • About £1.1bn of UK money is being used to fund humanitarian aid programmes in and around Syria
  • Charities, including the British Red Cross and Oxfam, are running appeals
  • Read more here

Syria has been embroiled in a bloody armed conflict for nearly five years. More than 250,000 Syrians have been killed, and 11 million displaced from their homes - more than four million have already left the country.

Earlier in the year, the prime minister was criticised by a group of 27 charities - including Oxfam and Amnesty International - which said the UK should take a "proportionate" share of refugees.

The charities praised the commitment to resettle 20,000 Syrians over five years, but said more needed to be done.

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