First Syrians arrive in the UK under the Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme (VPRS)

The first group of Syrian refugees to be accepted under the Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme (VPRS) arrived in the United Kingdom on Tuesday 25 March. The Scheme, announced by the UK Government in January, will offer the most vulnerable refugees fleeing the crisis protection in the UK. Beneficiaries of the scheme will be granted 5 years’ humanitarian protection. This will provide them with the same key rights and benefits as refugees, including the right to work, eligibility for welfare benefits, access to statutory services such as health and education, as well as the right to apply for family reunification.

The first group were met at the airport by experienced personnel and accompanied to their city of destination by coach where they spent their first night at a hotel. A welcome pack and pre-organised presentations[1] were arranged for the following morning aimed at offering an initial introduction to their new city and to provide information on the arrangements that had been put in place to aid the resettlement of the families.

Delivery partners from all aspects of the programme, who work as a close knit team, participated in these sessions including those from education, health, housing and the ‘wrap around’ support provider who will be supporting the families. The team delivering ‘wrap around’ support has allocated a case worker to each family and they will support the families for a full year. Support packages will be designed and delivered in accordance with individual needs and will include ESOL training for the adults.

After the presentations and introductions, the families were accompanied by their case workers and interpreters to their new furnished homes, which have been selected to meet the needs of individual families. During the week families were supported to complete their benefit claims at the jobcentre, and to register with a specialist primary healthcare provider who will conduct the initial health checks. The families will also be supported to enrol for Biometric Residence Permits at the Post Office, an important step to facilitate access to mainstream services. Case workers also help to orientate the families in the city by showing them around and accompanying them to the shops etc.

The families are settling well and are very appreciative of the help they have received and the opportunity they have been given to settle in this country. Several hundred refugees, including women and children at risk, survivors of torture and violence and those with medical needs are expected to arrive in the UK under this Scheme over the next three years as part of the UK’s response to the Syrian refugee crisis.

To learn more about the crisis in Syria and other European countries’ commitments to provide protection to Syrian refugees, click here

©Picture: UNHCR/Lynsey Addario/March 2014 - Syrian refugees await registration at the UNHCR compound in Tripoli.

[1] Presentations included: An introduction to City; Meeting staff (introduction to case workers); Housing/tenancies; The itinerary over the next week; The support that will be provided; Education (school places are being arranged for the children). ESOL/CO; TB screening; Primary healthcare and the arrangements that had been put in place for those with secondary healthcare needs.