REFUGEES AND RESETTLEMENT
There are many reasons why it might be too difficult or dangerous for people to stay in their own countries. People flee from violence, war, hunger, extreme poverty, because of their sexual or gender orientation, or from the consequences of climate change or other natural disasters. Often people will face a combination of these.
When a person flees their home country to seek safety elsewhere, they are known as an asylum seeker. They then start on a lengthy legal process to decide whether or not they qualify for refugee status. The definition of a refugee is set out in the 1951 Refugee Convention and, simply put,
A refugee is a person who has fled their country because they are at risk of serious human rights violations and persecution there. The risks to their safety and life were so great that they felt they had no choice but to leave and seek safety outside their own country because their government cannot or will not protect them from those dangers
The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) seeks to safeguard the rights and well-being of people who have been forced to flee worldwide. They work with partners and agencies to ensure that everybody has a right to seek asylum and find safe refuge in another country.
Some refugees live in perilous situations or have specific needs that cannot be addressed in the country where they have sought protection. In these circumstances, UNHCR helps resettle refugees to a third country. That country has to agree to take them and ultimately grant them permanent residence. There were 20.7 million refugees of concern to UNHCR around the world at the end of 2020, but less than one per cent of refugees are resettled each year.
The UK Government’s support of refugee resettlement has largely depended on the capacities of local authorities to house and support families. A targeted scheme existed to receive Syrian families but earlier this year a new scheme, with a global focus, and no targets, has replaced it. The UNHCR identifies those living in formal refugee camps, informal settlements and host communities who are in greatest need of assistance (including people requiring urgent medical treatment, survivors of violence and torture, and women and children at risk) and who would most benefit from resettlement in the UK and puts them forward. The Home Office then has to approve the family.
Local authorities are again being asked to assess their capacity to take such families.
Community Sponsorship – this is what we are seeking to do – is in addition to anything that local authorities offer directly. We are seeking to welcome just one family out of those 20.7 million people of concern to the UNHCR. They will choose the family for us, on the basis of its particular vulnerabilities, and what we have managed to put in place in terms of support. The UNHCR and Home Office will then oversee the family’s journey from their host country to the UK, and thus to us.