UN urges UK to double number of refugees to 10,000 a year

Syrian refugee families arrive at their new homes on the Isle of Bute. Picture:  Christopher Furlong/Getty Images
Syrian refugee families arrive at their new homes on the Isle of Bute. Picture: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images
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The UK should double the number of refugees it takes in under resettlement programmes, the United Nations has urged.

A senior official at the UN’s refugee agency said accepting around 10,000 refugees a year would be a “step change” for the UK.

Volker Turk, assistant commissioner at the UN High Commission for Refugees, said there was a need for countries around the world to “step up” to address the crisis.

The Government has committed to take in 20,000 refugees by 2020 under a scheme set up to cover people fleeing the Syrian conflict, with 5,453 granted humanitarian protection under the programme in the year ending March 2017, and 3,000 vulnerable children and family members.

But Mr Turk, who was in London for talks with ministers, said he hoped the Government’s response would be “significantly” expanded after 2020: “It would be a doubling.”

Mr Turk said he wanted “significant numbers” of refugees to be offered the chance of a new life in the UK after 2020, with a resettlement programme open to people fleeing troublespots around the world, not just Syria.

After his talks with ministers he said: “We had good discussions about possible ideas about what can be done post-2020 and the Government is open to discussing this and to learn the lessons from what is ongoing at the moment.

“We hope very much that there will be a regular resettlement programme by Britain past 2020 in significant numbers.”

The aspiration was for it to cover 10,000 refugees or more, effectively doubling the 
current rate.

He added: “It would be a step change, it would not just be related to Syria. It would look at where the urgent situations are, to have a certain flexibility in responding to them.

“I think we have to be very honest about the need for countries to contribute and to step up.”

Mr Turk praised the response of areas which had already received refugees and said some rural regions had been “revived” by the arrivals.

He said he was “very encouraged by the reaction in Britain, by communities at grassroots level.

“I’m so amazed when I hear about rural areas in Britain
that actually they are so 
happy that people come to them and it almost revives parts of Britain.”

He compared it to the response of developing countries in the “global south”, where there was often a “lot of solidarity” with refugees from other countries.