In the wake of the refugee crisis gripping Europe and the outpouring of public sympathy following the death of Alyan Kurdi in the Aegan Sea, David Cameron pledged to resettle 20,000 Syrian refugees over the next five years and 1,000 before Christmas – but is the government even close to delivering on that promise?
Since September there have been at least two arrivals of refugees as part of the government's agreement to the UN's Vulnerable Person Resettlement Scheme – on 17 and the 26 of November. When Syrian refugees arrived in Glasgow on 17 November there were reports of just over 100 arrivals from Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan to be resettled across Scotland.
"We put those cases forward to the states and we never know which country will ultimately take which case. It is the prerogative of the states to say which cases they will take"
- UNHCR spokesman
The Home Office has said it is "not offering a running commentary" on the arrival of the refugees but the announcement by some local authorities in London and southern England that they will take a handful of Syrian refugees in December would seem to indicate another batch will arrive before Christmas.
When Cameron announced the scheme he said the pace of arrivals would depend on the rate at which the UN could find suitable candidates. A Spokesman for the UN's High Commission for Refugees, which leads the scheme for resettling told IBTimes UK that by October his agency had submitted the cases for 1,300 vetted refugees to British authorities.
"We put those cases forward to the states and we never know which country will ultimately take which case. It is the prerogative of the states to say which cases they will take and which cases they won't take. Ultimately their procedure once they take over includes various elements scrutinising the case and also it includes the security clearance," he explained.
Plymouth City Council, which will take three refugee families in December, has said it is making arrangements for their arrival but will have to have clarification for future funding before it can commit to taking more and helping with the final target of 20,000 by 2020.
Issues of funding and concerns from local authorities that they will have to support the vulnerable Syrians, many of them children, once allocated funds from the overseas budget for the first year after arrival run out have paralysed the UK response to the refugee crisis.
"Until government provides further information on how the relocation scheme will work and be funded locally and regionally, councils' wish to resettle new arrivals could be hindered"
Councillor David Simmonds, LGA
The Local Government Association (LGA), which has mediated in part between the government and local bodies, said 55 authorities across the country have confirmed their readiness to take refugees and welcomed the allocation of £130m to help resettle Syrian migrants.
However, funding remains a critical issue. "Until government provides further information on how the relocation scheme will work and be funded locally and regionally, councils' wish to resettle new arrivals could be hindered," Councillor David Simmonds, chairman of the LGA's Asylum, Migration and Refugee Task Group, said.
"If families arrive steadily over the next four years, the new funding of £130 million over this parliament for councils will need monitoring to ensure the scheme is adequately funded. Government now needs to commit to a review of costings after 18 months."