UK Politics

Syria refugees: UK councils to get extra funding

Syria refugee camp in Lebanon Image copyright EPA
Image caption Refugees will travel to the UK from camps in countries neighbouring Syria, including Lebanon

The government says it is extending funding for councils to "assist" with the costs of helping Syrian refugees.

The UK will take in 20,000 people fleeing the war-torn country by 2020.

The government initially said it would extend an existing scheme, which covers the costs of refugees for 12 months, but councils asked for more funding.

The Home Office has now said "additional funding" will be offered beyond 12 months, an announcement welcomed by local authorities.

Precise details of the funding have not yet been confirmed.

Announcing the 20,000 figure last month, Prime Minister David Cameron said the UK had a "moral responsibility" to those living in camps bordering Syria.

Resettling the refugees would be a "national effort", he said.

'Generous response'

Announcing the new funding decision, Home Office minister Richard Harrington said the government would give councils "additional funding to assist with costs incurred in future years" - rather than just for one year, as under the existing scheme for Syrian refugees.

He said the government was working closely with local authorities on the details for the extra funding, adding that "this commitment gives local authorities the certainty they need to ensure that vulnerable refugees get the help they desperately need now and in the future".

It has not yet been decided whether the government will meet the full costs of the resettlements beyond the first 12 months.

Under the scheme, the refugees will be granted five years' humanitarian protection, which includes access to public funds and the labour market, as well as the possibility of family reunion if a person was split up from their partner or child when leaving their country.

After five years they can apply to settle in the UK.

'Detailed commitment'

The Local Government Association, which represents more than 370 local authorities in England and Wales, has previously called for a "firm commitment" that councils hosting the refugees will get "full financial support".

David Simmonds, its asylum, refugee and migration task group chairman, said "no community should be faced with the decision of having to close libraries or children's centres in order to meet the costs of supporting refugees."

He added: "The LGA has been in constant negotiations with government to secure extra funding for councils to help resettle 20,000 Syrian refugees in the UK.

"The government has now accepted our call for their scheme to be funded for longer than one year and we are pressing for a detailed commitment so that communities can welcome refugees knowing that they will not be left with an unfair burden."

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