Next month, Community Sponsorship Groups will welcome some of the first refugees to arrive in the UK since the pandemic began. We understand that this will mark the completion of the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme (VPRS).
On 22nd January, Community Sponsorship Groups were told by the Home Office to get ready to welcome refugees beyond the completion of VPRS. Many communities around the country are excited and ready to step up. However, without any announcement from the government on the future shape of resettlement, they are also confused and reticent to move forward without knowing what they are preparing to be part of.
It’s crucial for all of those waiting – including refugees, Local Authorities, charities, and communities – that the government provides details on the future of safe and legal routes as quickly as possible.
We look forward to hearing more details soon. Listening to the perspectives of Community Sponsorship Groups, Lead Sponsors, the Community Sponsorship Council, and the team at Reset, there are 5 key things that we all want to see in the government’s plans:
To maintain its important role in resettlement on a global stage and to play its part, we want to see the UK welcoming a minimum of 5,000 refugees per year from countries where the need is most. We believe this commitment should be made across multiple years to be most resource effective.
2. Diversity of welcome, including community-led and Local Authority/agency-led resettlement
We believe there is appetite within communities across the UK to grow Community Sponsorship from its current small role within resettlement. We’re proud to be leading the Communities for Refugees campaign to engage more volunteers with Community Sponsorship and we believe there’s potential to apply community-led welcome to other cohorts of refugees and routes to arrival.
However, we firmly believe that a strong and vibrant resettlement sector should include a mix of Local Authority, resettlement agency, and community welcome, and that degradation of capacity and expertise within Local Authorities and resettlement agencies is damaging for all of resettlement. At Reset we benefit hugely from the deep experience of resettlement agencies and Local Authorities and see Community Sponsorship as part of a vibrant wider resettlement sector.
3. Additionality of Community Sponsorship
It is motivating for community groups to know that they are increasing the number of refugees the UK welcomes. When the Home Office announced the UK Resettlement Scheme back in June 2019, there was a commitment that refugees welcomed through Community Sponsorship would be counted in addition to government targets. We want to see this commitment maintained in the new resettlement scheme.
4. Family reunification
We know, from Community Sponsorship Groups, colleagues across resettlement, research, and of course from refugees themselves, the high cost of being split from family members and concerned about their safety. We want to see routes for family reunification either established more strongly across resettlement or as a complementary pathway. We believe that Community Sponsorship could be adapted to support family reunification.
5. Resettlement should complement a humane asylum system
We believe that all newcomers to the UK should be treated humanely and with respect. We very much welcome the government’s preparation for the continuation of resettlement, but it is imperative that safe and legal routes do not come at the cost of routes to asylum. We believe the government should explore routes to safe and legal arrival of refugees claiming asylum in the UK, including humanitarian visas.
This position is supported by the community volunteers we work with. In the summer of 2020, we carried out a small piece of interview-based volunteer motivation research which showed that interviewees were unanimously keen to welcome displaced people, regardless of how they had made their way to the UK.