Government progress report on resettlement of Syrians in UK

More than a 10th of the 20,000 Syrians the Government has pledged to resettle have been brought to Britain so far, the latest figures show.

David Cameron announced plans to step up a resettlement initiative in September after a public outcry over the fate of those driven to attempt to make the perilous crossing of the Mediterranean.

The Government pledged to give refuge to 20,000 Syrians from the region around the war-torn country by 2020.

Home Office figures show that between the start of October last year and the end of June, 2,646 people have arrived under the Syrian vulnerable persons resettlement scheme.

In the final three months of last year 1,085 were brought to the UK. The number then dipped to 517 in the first quarter of this year before more than doubling to 1,044 in the three months from April.

Refugee Council head of advocacy Dr Lisa Doyle said: "There is absolutely no reason why a country as welcoming and wealthy as Britain would be unable to fulfil its pledge to resettle 20,000 Syrian refugees by 2020.

"After all, it's only the equivalent of each constituency welcoming one family a year."

Those arriving under the programme have been resettled across 118 local authorities - up from 71 in the six months to March. Coventry has taken the highest number, with 125, followed by Gateshead (107) and Edinburgh (83).

The data show there were 273 council areas where no Syrians had been resettled under the scheme in the nine months from October.

Earlier this month a Commons committee report warned of a "two tier system" over participation in the initiative, which is voluntary for town halls.

Regionally, Scotland has taken by far the greatest share of refugees under the scheme, with 862 over the three quarters - or a third of the total number who have arrived.

The North East had the next highest number, with 302, followed by the West Midlands, where 276 people were located.

Meanwhile, 97 have been resettled in London, 96 in the East of England and none in the North West, according to the figures.

The North West, however, had the highest number of asylum seekers receiving support under a different system, with more than 9,000 in the second quarter of this year.

Other figures showed that asylum applications in the UK from main applicants increased by 41% to 36,465 in the year to the end of June - the highest number for more than a decade.

And there were 3,472 asylum applications from unaccompanied children and teenagers - a 54% rise compared to the previous year.

David Simmonds, chairman of the Local Government Association's asylum, refugee and migration task group, said: "We are confident that there will be sufficient places that will support the Government's pledge to resettle 20,000 people by 2020 and the focus must now be on ensuring families are matched to the right placements and that they arrive safely and are well supported.

"Councils have an excellent track record in welcoming asylum seeking and refugee children and their families for many years and continue to work hard to support the Syrian resettlement scheme, alongside all the other schemes in current operation.

"They have no say over when people will be allowed to enter the UK, but stand ready to help when they do."

He added: "There are multiple schemes in operation for supporting refugees and there are also thousands of asylum seekers who are not housed by councils but who rely on council services.

"Councils will be helping to support some of the most vulnerable families fleeing Syria who will need ongoing support from health and social care services to cope with injuries, disabilities and to recover from the severe trauma they have experienced."

Steve Symonds, Amnesty International UK's refugee programme director, said: "The target of resettling 20,000 Syrian refugees by 2020 has always been too low and too slow."

He said many Syrians and other women, men and children fleeing conflict are unable to find safety in poorer countries already hosting much larger refugee populations.

Mr Symonds added: "Because governments like our own do not make legal routes to safety available, they continue to be compelled to turn to smugglers and dangerous journeys in search of somewhere to rebuild their lives."