The UK is today reaffirming its ongoing commitment to supporting refugees, and to working with partners to find a longer-term approach to refugee protection – an approach that restores dignity and offers refugees a viable future.
The UK has a long history of supporting refugees in need of protection. Our schemes have provided safe and legal routes for tens of thousands of people to start new lives in the UK. In every year since 2016 the UK resettled more refugees from outside Europe than any other EU member state. These remarkable achievements have been made possible through the tireless commitment of individuals, community and faith groups, local authorities, the devolved administrations, NGOs and our international partners - I am grateful to all of them for their on-going support.
The global humanitarian need continues to grow with over 68.5 million people around the world forced from their homes and nearly 25.4 million refugees fleeing persecution; whether due to conflict, religious belief, sexuality or any reason under the Refugee Convention. Over half of those refugees are children and for some, resettlement to places like the UK is the only durable solution.
With our commitments under the Vulnerable Persons’ Resettlement Scheme, Vulnerable Children’s Resettlement Scheme and Gateway Protection Programme coming to an end during 2020, it is right to provide certainty to our partners on the future of the UK’s refugee resettlement offer. That is why today I want to confirm the UK’s ongoing commitment to resettlement and set out our plans for after 2020.
Once we have delivered our current commitments we will consolidate our biggest resettlement schemes into a new global resettlement scheme. Our priority will be to continue to identify and resettle the most vulnerable refugees, identified and referred by UNHCR. Under the global resettlement scheme, we will broaden our geographical focus beyond the Middle East and North Africa region and be better placed to swiftly respond to international crises in coordination with global partners.
In the first year of operation of the new scheme, the UK will aim to resettle in the region of 5000 of the world’s most vulnerable refugees. We will continue to purposefully target those greatest in need of assistance, including people requiring urgent medical treatment, survivors of violence and torture, and women and children at risk. A new process for emergency resettlement will also be developed, allowing the UK to respond quickly to instances of heightened protection need, providing a faster route to protection where lives are at risk. Building on the experience of delivering the current schemes and the significant contribution of our community sponsors a key part of our resettlement offer will be that those resettled through our community sponsorship and Mandate routes will be in addition to our yearly, global commitment
We will continue to work in partnership with local authorities. Recognising that their continued support will be fundamental to achieving our ambitions, we will ensure they continue to be well-funded, supporting them to provide resettled refugees with the best possible support upon arrival. We will also continue our strong engagement with civil society as we move forward.
We will continue to support the long-term integration of refugees, empowering them to fulfil their potential and contribute positively to their new communities.
This statement has also been made in the House of Lords