Refugees in Devon

The refugee crisis that plagues Europe and the Middle East is ongoing. Refugee Awareness Week, Remember Me, 25 – 30 January 2017, supports and shows Devon’s solidarity with the plight of refugees and asylum seekers. See Refugee Support Devon website for more details.

With increasing climate pressures taking more and more land out of food production, and the ongoing conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan (and elsewhere), the numbers of globally displaced people has grown to a record breaking 63.5 million people. That is about 1 person in every 113 has had to flee their home because of fighting, persecution or environmental destruction and four times higher than in 2005.

Among them are nearly 21.3 million refugees, over half of whom are under the age of 18. There are also 10 million stateless people who have been denied a nationality and access to basic rights such as education, healthcare, employment and freedom of movement. Across the Earth nearly 34,000 people are forcibly displaced every day. In particular the plight of Syrian refugees has been acute and very much in the public eye.

100_1306 cropDevon is playing its part in meeting the UK government’s pledge to bring 20,000 of the most vulnerable Syrian refugees to the UK by 2020.

The government’s programme focusses on Syrian refugees who have fled to the countries around Syria and are registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The UNHCR identifies individuals and families who are particularly vulnerable for medical or other reasons. The UK Government carries out security screening before deciding whether to accept a family.

If the UK Government agrees to resettle a Syrian family, it gives them a humanitarian visa for five years. This gives family members the right to work and to use public services.

What’s happening…

Walk cropLocal councils working together across Devon have offered to house at least 74 Syrian families over that time. The UK Government provides funding for housing and other council costs under the resettlement programme. The first few families have arrived and are settling into homes in Devon, Plymouth and Torbay.

The families will live in private rented properties that the landlord has offered or agreed to rent to refugee families. Syrian refugee families do not get any preferential treatment for housing.

Councils volunteer to participate in the programme and can control the rate at which families arrive. This depends on the supply of sustainable and affordable housing from private landlords.

Devon has formed a partnership to help families to settle in and lead independent, safe and productive lives. This includes professionals from the NHS, education and social care who make sure that local services will be able to meet refugees’ needs. Community and voluntary organisations are taking the lead in helping families get to know the local area and UK culture, make contact with faith and support groups, learn English and where possible get into work.

Refugee families have been through great hardship and settling in a new country is a huge challenge. Families are entitled to privacy, so councils will not make individual announcements about the timing and locations of resettlement.

In addition, Devon is hosting a temporary Home Office respite facility for vulnerable young refugees arriving from Calais. Emergency accommodation for up to 70 young people leaving the refugee camp in Calais has been secured in North Devon, to help the Home Office programme to reunite young people with their families in the UK, or move to other parts of the country.

Devon County Council as lead agency for the safety and protection of children in Devon is working with the police, NHS and other local authorities across Devon to support the Home Office. It is not known how many young people will require temporary accommodation in Devon, but in discussion with the Home Office, the Devon facility is to provide a safe place for up to 70 vulnerable refugee children and young people. The accommodation, care provision, security and other arrangements are being commissioned directly via the Home Office.

The following document provides information on how you can help refugees together with contact information for refugee and asylum support organisations in Devon: How to help refugees

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