Milton Keynes has resettled 85 Syrian refugees and those fleeing Afghanistan to be welcomed soon

Charity says it's critical council get support to help families fleeing troubles

Tuesday, 24th August 2021, 12:56 pm

Milton Keynes is set to welcome some of the 20,000 people en route to the UK following a political takeover by the Taliban regime in Afghanistan.

Milton Keynes is already home to 85 of the Syrian refugees housed across the UK, figures show.

But while charity Refugee Council praised the success of the Syrian conflict scheme, it said it is critical the Government provides enough support to help councils welcome Afghan nationals.

The government is to ensure councils get help to support Afghan families

Figures from the House of Commons Library show 85 people had resettled in Milton Keynes through the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme by the end of March – 0.4% of all those nationally.

And according to the latest population estimates, that means Syrian refugees make up just three in every 10,000 Milton Keynes residents.

The Government recently announced that the Afghan Citizens' Resettlement Scheme will welcome 20,000 people trying to escape persecution from the Taliban – with up to 5,000 in its first year.

They will be offered the chance to set up life in the UK permanently, with priority given to women and girls, and religious and other minorities most at risk of human rights abuses.

The Home Office said the programme is modelled on the VPRS, which resettled around 20,000 Syrian refugees in local authority areas across the UK between 2014 and 2021.

Those escaping conflict in Syria were granted refugee status with full rights to live and work, provided with housing and support, and help to integrate into their communities.

Enver Solomon, chief executive at the Refugee Council, said: "Councils need to be able to make plans with the assurance that all the resources they require are provided by central government.

"The Syrian scheme was a success because of long-term careful planning and collaboration with local areas and agencies and it will be critical for the same to happen given the challenges councils are facing as a result of the pandemic and overall financial pressures."

He urged the Government to allow those with relatives already in the UK to safely join them, and suspend the return of anyone refused asylum back to Afghanistan.

People with ongoing claims for asylum receive financial assistance and accommodation through what is known as Section 95 support, as do those whose application was unsuccessful, but who had children in their household.

The HoC Library figures show 44,800 people were receiving Section 95 support across the UK at the end of March.

Of them, eight were in Milton Keynes.

The Home Office received almost 150,000 applications for support between 2013 and 2020, with around 5% from Afghan nationals.

Tim Naor Hilton, chief executive of Refugee Action, said the ACRS is a good first step, but the "horrific scenes" in Kabul show just how fast situations can change.

He urged the Government to double its target to resettle 10,000 Afghans in the first year, as many will attempt to reach safety through less regular routes.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said: “Our country has a proud history of offering sanctuary to those in need.

"We will not abandon people who have been forced to flee their homes and are now living in terror of what might come next."