Parliament's Home Affairs Committee has warned the government that the UK may not have the capacity to take in the proposed 20,000 Syrian refugees by 2020, saying it would have to undertake careful planning to ensure "we get it right." Keith Vaz, the committee's chairman raised concerns about "our real level of preparedness and ability to increase capacity to manage such numbers at short notice."
He added: "At no point in the recent past has the UK come near to resettling 4,000 refugees in one year. He warned that the 20,000 refugees target was a "huge change in the scale" of resettlement.
"The generosity of the British public in offers of assistance and even space in their homes has not been accepted by ministers. This should be reconsidered," he said.
He noted that housing is likely to be "one of the most difficult issues" and if properly organised and supported, "offers of private accommodation will be helpful, viable and perhaps essential part of the solution."
Vaz was speaking following the publication of the committee's report on immigration, which spells out a list of recommendations to help the government cope with the huge influx of refugees that Prime Minister David Cameron had promised to take in.
The report's findings, among others include:
- the sudden increase in the numbers of children being detained in 2015, which it says is unacceptable;
- urging the government to include student numbers in the immigration cap, noting that the current cap of 100,000 was arbitrary and difficult to achieve; and
- the increase in the number of asylum seekers and other migrants detained for administrative purposes in the country.
The report also noted that there is a backlog of 318,159 immigration cases at the Home Office, blaming it mainly on the 'migration refusal pool' which comprises those whose temporary or permanent migration application have been refused and whose whereabouts are unknown.
Government says register of people willing to help to be set
Richard Harrington, the minister responsible for Syrian refugees, in responding to the concerns raised, admits that the resettlement of the refugees need careful planning but insisted that the target of 20,000 refugees by 2020 will be done by the end of the current parliament.
He said there were plans to create a register of people willing to provide housing for refugees and to develop a "community sponsorship scheme" so members of the public and groups could give direct support. The minister said the government plans to resettle 1,000 Syrians by Christmas and that a number of vulnerable people have already been "welcomed and successfully resettled."
Harrington continued: "That is why we are continuing to work closely with the UNHCR, local government associations, NGOs and partner organisations in order to resettle 20,000 people by the end of this Parliament."