Migration Crisis Contents

4Addressing the causes of mass migration

Support to source countries

48.Part of the UK response to the migrant crisis is to try to tackle the long-term issues in source and main transit countries, through humanitarian and development aid. This included £2 billion in bilateral aid to countries in Africa in 2015–16. As a key driver of migration, war-torn Syria is also a major focus of UK aid. The UK has contributed over £550 million to Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey to assist with refugees from Syria. The UK also supports humanitarian work in Syria itself, including for provision of emergency shelter, food rations, medical aid and clean water.62 The UK hosted a conference on Syria in February 2016 at which the then Prime Minister pledged to double the UK’s contribution to the Syria crisis from £1.12 billion to £2.3 billion. The Government says that the UK’s contribution to date has funded: the supply of 20 million food rations; clean water to 1.6 million people; 2.5 million medical consultations; 6 million relief packages; and help with sanitation and hygiene for 7.2 million people. Other pledges at the conference totalled over US$11 billion up to 2020.63

49.Many of the submissions to our inquiry welcomed the financial commitment that the UK Government had made to the countries affected by the Syrian war. However, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) said that these commitments cannot be used as a reason to evade obligations closer to home, or to insist that states close to Syria contain the refugees, as “responsibility for refugees cannot be defined by proximity”. The IRC also pointed out that the major NGOs responding to the migration crisis were struggling to raise funds:

Few European governments have provided aid directly to the NGOs responding on the ground, which means that NGOs, relying on private donations, are running out of money. UNHCR, IOM and partners have released a $550m appeal for humanitarian operations in Europe that must be met.64

In September 2015, the then UN High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres, described the global humanitarian community as “financially broke”.65

50.We strongly endorse a coordinated approach to the provision of support to those countries around Syria, which are doing so much to fulfil their moral obligation to take in large numbers of refugees, including Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey. In the absence of realistic prospects of the impacts of the conflict coming to an end in the near future, the UK’s contribution to humanitarian relief is warmly welcomed, and maintaining it is essential. However, providing such aid does not absolve the UK from also providing more direct support for the thousands of Syrian refugees who have already arrived in Europe, particularly those whom the UK Government, in different circumstances, would consider to be vulnerable and therefore deserving refuge.

Resettlement of Syrian refugees

51.In January 2014, the UK Government said that it would not take part in any EU-wide scheme to resettle Syrian refugees arriving in Europe, but instead would operate its own mechanism—the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme (VPRS). In September 2015, the then Prime Minister announced that the UK Government would expand its current scheme, and resettle 20,000 Syrians over the course of this Parliament to 2020. The programme is focusing on helping the most vulnerable refugees who cannot be supported effectively in the region, on the basis of the UNHCR identifying potential candidates in need of resettlement. The following categories of people qualify:

52.Those who qualify are interviewed by the UNHCR and, if successful, the UNHCR then submits their case to the UK for consideration. The process involves a “fairly sophisticated security check” and a medical assessment conducted by the IOM. The background and medical details are sent to the relevant local authority in the UK so that an assessment can be made of care and accommodation needs. Successful candidates are given humanitarian protection, which is generally permission to stay for five years.

53.Those resettled are provided with accommodation and help in integrating in the UK, including English language tuition and access to benefits, and are allowed to work. After five years, the resettled person will be able to apply for indefinite leave to remain in the UK.67 The UK is using over £460 million from the International Development budget to pay for the first year costs of the scheme, and up to a further £130 million will be allocated by 2019–20 to local authorities to contribute to the cost of supporting the refugees beyond their first year.68

54.The Government told us that the pace of resettlement would depend on several factors, including the rate at which the UNHCR can make referrals and the number of places made available in the UK. When we pressed the then Minister for Syrian Refugees in November 2015 about the pace at which he expected Syrian refugees to arrive over the five-year period, he was very clear that this would not be predictable and he would not disclose how many had arrived by that date. The Government did give a commitment that 1,000 refugees would arrive before Christmas 2015, and this was achieved with days to spare, with the 1,000th refugee arriving on 16 December 2015. At that point, over 50 local authorities had taken a share of those who had arrived.69

55.We commented on the low number of local authorities involved in providing asylum accommodation in our February report on the Immigration Directorates and recommended that more local authorities should take part in the dispersal system.70 The Government has been reluctant to provide figures for the number of Syrian refugees housed by each local authority but these were eventually published with the latest asylum statistics at the end of May and are set out in the Annexes to this report.71 These show that, of the 1,602 people accepted under the VPRS to March 2016, 610 have been resettled in Scotland. 171 people have been resettled in the Yorkshire and Humberside region and 105 in Coventry. Only four London Boroughs (Barnet, Camden, Islington and Kingston-upon-Thames) have taken any of the Syrian refugees.72

56.The Government has said that those resettled in the UK will have their need for protection reviewed at the end of the temporary period and, if the situation in their home country has improved and their reason for asylum no longer stands, then the UK will “seek to return them to their home country rather than offer settlement here in the UK”.73

57.The UK Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme has started well, and there are signs that the co-operation necessary between central Government, local authorities, and the various agencies involved is working efficiently. We reiterate our support for the Government’s commitment to receive 20,000 Syrian refugees by 2020 and our appreciation of the efforts of all those who worked to achieve the target of 1,000 arriving by Christmas 2015, and we commend the then Minister for Syrian Refugees for achieving this.

58.However, it is clear from the recently published statistics that more local authorities need to contribute to providing asylum accommodation, including for Syrian refugees. There is now a two-tier system among local authorities, with some providing support to Syrian refugees and others not doing so. A similar two-tier system applies in the level of support local authorities provide for other asylum-seekers. The Government needs to be much more proactive in encouraging a fair distribution of asylum seekers throughout the country and Ministers should take the lead on this, by encouraging their own local authorities to take their fair share of refugees.

59.Those who come to the UK under the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme are only given humanitarian protection for five years. We are concerned that the Government appears to be moving towards a system of limited time periods for providing refuge, which may not wholly meet its obligations under the 1951 UN Convention on the status of refugees. The situation in Syria should be reviewed comprehensively once the five-year point is approaching for any refugee.

Costs of asylum provision

60.It is difficult to find official figures for the costs to the UK of receiving and providing for asylum seekers. The Home Office states that the average “unit cost” of processing an asylum application in 2014–15 was £7,848. However, this includes the costs of any appeals, support, and detention as well as the administration costs of processing each application.74

61.In evidence to us submitted in February 2016 on asylum accommodation, two of the provider companies supplied some information on the payments they receive from the Home Office. Serco stated that its average income per month per service user was around £300, but that the average cost to Serco was around £450. For a full year, the average revenue Serco is paid per service user is around £3,600, and the loss per service user per year is around £1,850. G4S told us that the average payment it receives is £9.35 per service user per night, which equates to £280 per month or £3,412 per year.75 On the specific costs of Syrian refugees, the BBC has cited information indicating that the Home Office estimates the cost to local authorities of each refugee accepted under the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Scheme to be £8,520. Additional costs of £12,700 for benefits and £2,200 for medical care would be funded by central government, making a total of £23,420.76

Safe and legal routes into Europe

62.The Red Cross EU Office has stated that increasingly restrictive immigration policies in EU countries have steadily made it more difficult for non-EU nationals to enter the EU. Those wishing to do so have to rely more on asylum and family reunion routes. In turn, the rising number of asylum applications has increased pressure to ensure only genuine asylum seekers are offered protection. The opportunity for those wishing to enter Europe legally to claim asylum has also reduced: airlines will not let people board Europe-bound flights without visas, but European states now restrict visas which were previously available to refugees. 77 The IRC said:

Schengen area countries granted over 30,000 visas to Syrians in 2010, for example, but very few in 2013. The UK’s approval rate for Syrian visas has dropped significantly over that time period. Thus even refugees who could easily afford plane tickets to the UK and other European countries, and who would almost certainly be successful in their asylum claims, are unable to travel here legally. 78

63.The lack of a legal route incentivises people to pay smugglers and take dangerous routes.79 Many organisations therefore support the creation of effective legal routes to the EU. Some countries, such as Brazil, do provide humanitarian visas—where someone who wishes to apply for protection can do so before arriving in that country. Switzerland and France offer humanitarian visas for Syrians; however the UK offers none.80

64.The Archbishop of Canterbury agreed that safe and legal routes should be provided. He accepted that these mechanisms needed to be carefully crafted “to avoid pulling those who would not otherwise come but may feel this is the only resort” and that it was important to offer assistance in the region which migrants were fleeing because “you want to offer people the hope” of being able to remain in their own area. But he was clear that legal routes were necessary “to undermine completely the people traffickers, because that is the most dangerous and the most extortionate way” of people trying to reach Europe. He pointed out that it was “the strong” who used the more reliable trafficker routes and that the most vulnerable people “tend to get left behind or die tragically en route”.81

65.The Government has said that it will not take part in the current EU schemes to relocate or resettle refugees. This is because it does not wish to participate in any initiative that might act as a magnet for those seeking refuge and thereby encourage them to risk taking dangerous routes to try to reach the UK. We accept this approach. In these circumstances, we would ask the Government to explain whether it is considering any expansion of safe and legal routes, such as humanitarian visas, for those from conflict regions seeking protection, as advocated by the Archbishop of Canterbury and a wide range of expert NGOs and others. The Government should also make clear how its response to the migrant crisis is providing protection for refugees other than Syrians in the UK, without provision in place for them to travel to the UK to apply for asylum.

66.We asked the Archbishop of Canterbury whether he believed that the UK was “full” when it came to the question of taking more migrants and refugees. He said “I do not think Britain is full [ … ] we can take more people in”. But he warned that “we have to think very hard about doing it. You can do the right thing in such a wrong way that it becomes the wrong thing—that is the danger” and he was clear that “careful preparation and good policy” were needed. He also believed that communities who had concerns about migration should be “listened to”, and that they also needed to be reassured that the resources of their communities were being “augmented and strengthened” in order to cope with receiving refugees.82 We put the same question to Lord Green of Deddington, Chair of Migration Watch who told us: “I am quite sure that Britain is very crowded, and that is the view of 75% of the population. Is it full? No, but there is a very strong feeling among the public that they would like to reduce the rate of increase of the population”.83

67.The Chair of Migration Watch, Lord Green of Deddington, accepted in evidence to us that the UK is not yet “full” in relation to migration. The Archbishop of Canterbury agreed that the UK was not full and believed that, with “careful preparation and good policy”, including the necessary resources being provided to local communities, the UK had the capacity to fulfil its moral obligation to accept more refugees fleeing war zones and catastrophes, as well as asylum-seekers. We share this view.

62 Home Office written evidence (MIG0067)

63 Prime Minister’s Office Announcement, 4 February 2016, “UK to invest an extra £1.2 billion supporting Syria and the region”; See also GOV.UK Supporting Syria Conference 2016 webpages

64 International Rescue Committee Situational Briefing, 23 February 2016, Urgent action needed on European refugee crisis. See also IRC written evidence (MIG0064)

65 The Guardian, 6 September 2015, UN agencies ‘broke and failing’ in face of ever-growing refugee crisis

66 Home Office written evidence (MIG0067)

67 Home Office written evidence (MIG0067); see also oral evidence taken on 13 October 2015

68 Third Special Report from the Home Affairs Committee, The Work of the Immigration Directorates (Q2 2015): Government Response, HC 693, pp4–5; see also Sixth Report, The Work of the Immigration Directorates (Q3 2015), HC 772, paras 53–58

69 BBC news website, 16 December 2015, Syria crisis: First 1,000 refugees have arrived in UK,

70 Sixth Report, The Work of the Immigration Directorates (Q3 2015), HC 772, para 50

71Home Office, Immigration statistics, January to March 2016: data tables, Vol 4, Table as_20_q

72 The Guardian, 27 May 2016, “Scotland has taken in more than a third of all UK’s Syrian refugees”

73 Home Office written evidence (MIG0067)

74 Home Office, Asylum transparency data: May 2016, Table ASY_04

75 Letter from Rupert Soames OBE, Chief Executive, Serco Group plc,to the Chair of the Committee, 26 February 2016; and Letter from Peter Neden, Regional President – G4S UK & Ireland, to the Chair of the Committee, 22 February 2016

76 BBC News website, 15 October 2015, “Syria refugees to cost ‘up to £23k each’ in first year in UK”

77 Red Cross EU Office, Europe in crisis: Facilitating Access to Protection, (Discarding) Offshore Processing and Mapping Alternatives for the Way Forward, December 2015

78 International Rescue Committee written evidence (MIG0064)

79 Amnesty International written evidence (MIG0062); see also European Commission, Action Plan on Migrant Smuggling, May 2015

80 International Rescue Committee written evidence (MIG0064)

81 Oral evidence taken on 7 June 2016, Q26

82 Oral evidence taken on 7 June 2016, Qs38–46 and Q57

83 Oral evidence taken on 7 June 2016, Q96

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28 July 2016