Sheffield resettled more Syrian refugees than almost anywhere else – as similar Afghanistan scheme launches
But although hundreds of people fleeing the Syrian crisis have been welcomed to the area since 2014, they represent just a fraction of all residents in Sheffield.
Charity Refugee Council praised the success of the Syrian conflict scheme, but said it is critical the Government provides enough support to help councils now welcome Afghan nationals.
Figures from the House of Commons Library show 391 people had resettled in Sheffield through the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme by the end of March.
The area has welcomed more refugees through the VPRS than almost any other local authority in the UK – 1.8 per cent of all those resettled.
But according to the latest population estimates, Syrian refugees make up just seven in every 10,000 Sheffield residents.
The Government recently announced that the Afghan Citizens' Resettlement Scheme will welcome 20,000 people trying to escape persecution from the Taliban – with up to 5,000 in its first year.
They will be offered the chance to set up life in the UK permanently, with priority given to women and girls, and religious and other minorities most at risk of human rights abuses.
The Home Office said the programme is modelled on the VPRS, which resettled around 20,000 Syrian refugees across the UK between 2014 and 2021.
Those escaping conflict in Syria were granted refugee status with full rights to live and work, provided with housing and support, and help to integrate into their communities.
Enver Solomon, chief executive at the Refugee Council, said: “Councils need to be able to make plans with the assurance that all the resources they require are provided by central government.
“The Syrian scheme was a success because of long-term careful planning and collaboration with local areas and agencies and it will be critical for the same to happen given the challenges councils are facing as a result of the pandemic and overall financial pressures.”
He urged the Government to allow those with relatives already in the UK to safely join them, and suspend the return of anyone refused asylum back to Afghanistan.
People with ongoing claims for asylum receive financial assistance and accommodation through what is known as Section 95 support, as do those whose application was unsuccessful, but who had children in their household.
The HoC Library figures show 44,800 people were receiving Section 95 support across the UK at the end of March.
Of them, 828 were in Sheffield.
The Home Office received almost 150,000 applications for support between 2013 and 2020, with around five per cent from Afghan nationals.
Tim Naor Hilton, chief executive of Refugee Action, said the ACRS is a good first step, but the “horrific scenes” in Kabul show just how fast situations can change.
He urged the Government to double its target to resettle 10,000 Afghans in the first year, as many will attempt to reach safety through less regular routes.
Home Secretary Priti Patel said: “Our country has a proud history of offering sanctuary to those in need.
“We will not abandon people who have been forced to flee their homes and are now living in terror of what might come next.”