National and Local Government response to Syrian refugee crisis

PM confirms Syrian refugee numbers

The following story has been reported across all media and gives the Government’s current response to the Syrian refugee crisis:

Prime Minister David Cameron has told the House of Commons that the UK will meet its “moral responsibility” toward those fleeing Syria by taking 20,000 refugees from the camps bordering the country over the next five years.

Refugees will not initially be given asylum status, they will however be granted a humanitarian status that will enable them to apply for asylum in five years. Ministers will be working with the UN high commissioner for refugees to identify who of those seeking refuge will enter the UK.

Funding for the process will come from the government overseas aid programme and will be handed to councils in the first full year, with David Simmonds, chairman of the Local Government Association’s asylum, migration and refugee task group, calling for funding to stretch to the full term, saying: “Local communities that open their doors at a moment of crisis should not be left to pick up the pieces when funding runs out and the world’s attention has moved on.”

Meanwhile, in response to many emails on how East Devon District Council expects to help, CEO Mark Williams has issued the following email to District Councillors:

I have seen a number of e-mails this morning concerning this issue and requests for clarification about what the Council will be doing to assist.

The process of assisting refugees is led by Governmental policy, and, in the case of Devon, normally co-ordinated locally by the County Council. As you know, the County Council is the relevant social services authority and they will take the lead locally in assessing the requirements of such refugees as may be allocated to the County.

As a housing authority we will work with the County Council and assist in placing such numbers of refugees as may be allocated to the district. In the past, most refugees have tended to be placed in urban areas where there is easier access to the many support services that are required. This was the case with a number of Afghan refugees who were placed in Exeter, for example.

We will update you as the position becomes clearer, and the Portfolio Holder may be able to make an update statement at Cabinet this Wednesday (September 9).

East Devon’s Head of Housing has also help explain the situation with regard to EDDC’s immediate requirement to provide housing to those in need:

We are not aware of any specific applications for Council housing in East Devon from Syrian Refugees.

Government guidance and local allocations schemes in recent years have been targeted to ensuring local homes go to local people. Our Devon Home Choice scheme follows national advice and makes clear who is eligible for housing guided by the Localism Act 2011 and the habitual residence test.

The Secretary of State can prescribe regulations to change this situation.

I suspect any short term assistance will likely be through resettlement centres or existing community facilities and not large scale allocation of Council homes in the first instance.

We are working on our local arrangements/contribution to the crisis in preparation for a coordinated approach with all tiers of government.

This is a fast-moving scenario and I will update as soon as there is news of how communities can help once the exact needs of a co-ordinated response are identified.

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