House of Commons Library

The UK response to the Syrian refugee crisis

Published Wednesday, February 15, 2017

This Commons Library briefings looks at the Government's work to resettle up to 20,000 Syrian refugees in the UK by the end of this Parliament, under its Syrian Vulnerable Person Resettlement Programme. It has also committed itself to resettling up to 3,000 vulnerable children currently in the Middle East and North Africa, and 350 unaccompanied children already in Europe (including Syrian nationals).

Jump to full report >>

The UK’s Syrian Vulnerable Person Resettlement Programme

At the start of the Syrian crisis, the then Government's policy was to be generous with humanitarian aid to Syria's neighbours rather than to accept Syrian refugees for resettlement in the UK. However, in early 2014 it established the Syrian Vulnerable Person Resettlement Programme (VPRP) in order to provide a route for selected Syrian refugees to come to the UK.

The VPRP first prioritised the elderly, the disabled and victims of sexual violence and torture. There was no fixed quota, but the Government announced it expected several hundred refugees to arrive in the UK over three years. The VPRP was significantly extended in September 2015 - it now plans to resettle up to 20,000 refugees from the Syrian region over the next five years. The Government is working with local authorities and the voluntary sector to implement the programme. To assist refugees’ integration into UK society a ‘community sponsorship’ scheme was launched in July 2016.

The resettled refugees are given five years’ Humanitarian Protection status, with permission to work and access public funds. As of September 2016 a total of 4,414 people have been granted humanitarian protection under the Syrian Vulnerable Person Resettlement Programme (VPRP) since its launch.

Other new resettlement schemes

In addition to the VPRP, the Government committed itself to providing resettlement for up to 3,000 vulnerable children (and family members) from conflict situations in the Middle East and North Africa region. A further scheme was introduced by section 67 of the Immigration Act 2016 (known as ‘the Dubs amendment’), which required the Government to relocate and support an unspecified number of unaccompanied refugee children currently in Europe. Neither of these schemes are limited to Syrian nationals.

On 8 February 2017 the Government announced the number of unaccompanied children to be relocated under section 67 will be capped at 350. The decision prompted criticism from Lord Dubs and campaigners.

Syrian asylum claims

It is also possible for Syrians to claim asylum upon arrival or after-entry to the UK.

Syrian nationals were the fifth-largest group of asylum applicants in the year ending September 2016 (2,102 main applicants). 86% of initial asylum decisions in Syrian cases gave permission to remain in the UK. This is by far the highest rate of recognition amongst the top six nationalities applying for asylum in that year.

UK aid to Syria

The Government continues to commit a significant amount of international aid to assistance programmes in the regions neighbouring Syria. It takes the view that this is preferable to encouraging Syrian refugees to make dangerous journeys to Europe. The UK has committed over £2.3 billion to helping refugees in Syria and the region, making it the second largest donor to the Syrian refugee crisis since the start of the crisis in 2012.


Commons Briefing papers SN06805

Author: Terry McGuinness

Topics: Asylum, International development, Middle East

Share this page

Stay up to date

  • Subscribe to RSS feed Subscribe to Email alerts Commons Briefing papers

House of Commons Library

The House of Commons Library provides research, analysis and information services for MPs and their staff.