Syrian refugee
A Syrian refugee who fled the violence in Syria is seen at Bashabsha camp near the Jordanian city of Al Ramtha Ali Jarekji/Reuters

Government plans to resettle 20,000 Syrian refugees in the UK by 2020 will cost an estimated £589m ($835m). The figure was revealed by Syrian Refugee Minister Richard Harrington in response to a parliamentary question from Labour MP Jim Cunningham.

The refugees are being accepted under the Vulnerable Persons Relocation (VPR) scheme, which was announced by Prime Minister David Cameron in September 2015. So far, 1,194 people have been accepted by the UK, including 605 aged under 18, according to government figures.

"The first 12 months of each refugee's resettlement costs under the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement (VPR) Scheme will be funded using Official Development Assistance. At the Spending Review the Government committed £129m to assist with local authority costs over years 2-5 of the scheme," Harrington wrote in his response to Cunningham.

"The total estimated cost of the scheme in each of the next five years is: £99m in 2016-2017, £129m in 2017-2018, £149m in 2018-2019 and £83m in 2020-2021."

Home Affairs Committee chair Keith Vaz called the sum a "huge figure" and said he had written to Cameron to provide further information after it was unclear where the remainder of the £589m would come from. "The amount of money being spent on this scheme appears to be comparable to all other asylum accommodation delivered by the government," said Vaz.

"As the Home Office refuses to provide regular updates on the numbers being resettled, or where they are being placed, there is an unacceptable lack of transparency in the use of these significant funds," he added. "I have written to the Prime Minister to ask for further clarification."

The Home Office called the figure a "substantial level of funding" which would allow people fleeing war torn Syria to "rebuild their lives in safe and secure surroundings".

Refugees who are admitted under the VPR scheme can stay for five years, after which they can apply to settle in the UK. Local authorities can voluntarily participate in the programme and 55 had signed up as of December 2015.