Co-financed by the European Fund for the Integration of Third Country Nationals
3. Strategic approaches to migration
3.6 Humanitarian protection
The UK Government operates a number of different schemes that support asylum seekers, refugees and vulnerable migrant groups in coming to the UK. Local authorities are central to the success of these schemes and can actively choose to participate. This not only shows their commitment to supporting humanitarian protection but also to addressing particular demographic challenges that they may face.
More detail is given on the following areas in this section of the toolkit:
- Asylum dispersal
- Gateway protection programme
- Syrian Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme
- Afghan Locally Engaged Staff Scheme
We provide support to Scottish councils interested in becoming involved in humanitarian protection. Contact us if you would like further information.
3.6.1 Asylum Dispersal
Local authorities across the UK have had a key role in providing services for asylum seekers since the UK Government introduced the asylum dispersal scheme in 1999. Glasgow City Council is the only Scottish local authority to have participated in dispersal to date.
Between 2,000 and 6,000 asylum seekers have been dispersed to Glasgow each year since 2001. The council is no longer contracted to provide accommodation to asylum seekers. Since 2012 this contact has been delivered by the private sector provider Serco. However, the council continues to permit dispersal to Glasgow and asylum seekers are housed in a mixture of private and housing association properties across the city.
Glasgow has benefited from asylum dispersal in a number of ways. While dispersal has placed additional pressure on some council services – particularly since the city has ceased to be funded by the Home Office for the delivery of the asylum contract – asylum seekers have enhanced the city’s cultural diversity and their arrival has boosted the city’s population and age profile. Furthermore, the continued provision of some services (like schools) has only been viable because of the arrival of asylum seekers in areas that were previously in decline. There have also been reports that the presence of asylum seeker children – and indeed migrant children more generally – may have raised educational attainment because of the value that many of their families put on learning. Further analysis is provided in a research paper that we commissioned in 2013 on the impact of migrant children in Glasgow schools.
The Home Office is currently seeking to open up new dispersal areas across the UK. We are able to provide support to Scottish local authorities that wish to explore this option. While the example of Glasgow shows the positive impact the arrival of asylum seekers can have on a council area, local authorities should give consideration to issues associated with community and social cohesion, and their capacity to provide the required services to support and integrate this vulnerable group of people.
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The New Scots: Integrating Refugees in Scotland’s Communities strategy includes a workstream focused on the needs of dispersed asylum seekers.
3.6.2 Gateway Protection Programme
The Gateway Protection Programme is a scheme for resettling some of the world’s most vulnerable refugees in the UK. It is operated by the Home Office in partnership with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
People who are resettled through the Gateway scheme have been selected by UN High Commissioner for Refugees on the basis that they are unable to safely remain where they are currently seeking refuge, or they are unlikely to ever be able to return safely to their home country. They tend to be living in refugee camps close to their countries of origin. The Home Office has committed to resettle 750 refugees through this route every year, and works in partnership with local authorities to achieve this.
Refugees resettled through the scheme are granted indefinite leave-to-remain in the UK and so have similar rights to British citizens as soon as they arrive in the UK. Local authorities that participate commit to resettling a group of refugees from a particular country (normally less than 100 individuals) at any one time. Local authorities are responsible for providing initial accommodation and support to help the refugees integrate and access services, while the Home Office covers various costs incurred during the first year after arrival. It is important to recognise that refugees coming in to the country under this scheme will have full entitlement to all mainstream benefits.
Gateway refugees are some of the most vulnerable people in the world so this scheme should not be regarded as an easy means of bringing more economically active people into an area. However, participating in this programme allows local authorities to contribute to the UK and UNHCR humanitarian efforts. Furthermore, costs can normally be absorbed and staff in local authorities who have participated report increased job satisfaction. The programme will also increase cultural diversity and can prompt positive responses from the community and the voluntary sector.
To take part in the Gateway scheme, local authorities have to enter into a tendering process with the Home Office, with applications assessed on value for money, number of refugees, locality and joined up working. For further information on participating, please contact us.
North Lanarkshire Council participated in the Gateway Protection Programme in 2007 and, to date, is the only local authority in Scotland to have received refugees through this scheme. A total of 77 refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo were resettled in Motherwell. The scheme was generally deemed to be a success in terms of the level of integration of the refugees that was achieved and the multi-agency and inter-departmental approach that was set up to support the process. Indeed, North Lanarkshire Council received the Creating Integrated Communities Award at the 2007 UK Housing Awards for the partnership approach it established.
However, the challenges faced by the refugees in accessing employment commensurate with their skills and qualifications, as well as issues associated with their broader integration into the local community and wider Scottish society should not be underestimated.
The University of the West of Scotland and Oxfam completed research in 2014 which revisited the North Lanarkshire scheme as a means of assessing longer term outcomes for the Congolese families that were resettled in Motherwell. The research provides an interesting analysis of the barriers to integration faced by refugees. It also provides useful insights and recommendations for councils considering participating in Gateway or, indeed, other humanitarian protection schemes.
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The Refugee Council and Refugee Action have produced a Good Practice Guide on taking part in the Gateway programme. It should be noted that this guidance was published in 2008 so does not necessarily contain information and advice that is fully up to date.
Further information and guidance is also provided on the UN High Commissioner for Refugees website.
The European Resettlement Network and the SHARE Network are initiatives funded by the European Commission which provide support for resettlement in Europe by connecting organisations and individuals that are either involved in, or wish to be involved in, refugee resettlement.
3.6.3 Syrian Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme
In January 2014, the UK Government announced that it was establishing the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme. This scheme aims to relocate some of the most vulnerable refugees displaced by the ongoing conflict in Syria - particularly survivors of torture and violence, women and children who are at risk, and those in need of medical care. The scheme will see several hundred people being relocated to the UK over a three year period between 2014 and 2017.
The Syrian Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme is being run alongside the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Syria Humanitarian Admission Programme. The scheme is modelled on the existing Gateway Protection Programme. As with Gateway, the UK Government is seeking to involve local authorities in the scheme. Local authorities that take part and organise accommodation for refugees will receive funding to cover housing and associated costs in the first year after they arrive in the country.
As with Gateway, the integration needs of this very vulnerable group of people should not be underestimated. Glasgow City Council is currently participating in the scheme while a number of other councils are actively pursuing an interest in participating.
Any councils wishing to participate or learn more about the scheme can contact us for further information and advice.
3.6.4 Afghan Locally Engaged Staff Scheme
In 2013, the UK Government announced the introduction of a package of measures for the benefit of locally engaged staff in Afghanistan who were made redundant as a result of the withdrawal of British forces from the country. Locally engaged staff were those who were employed by the British Government to support its work in Afghanistan.
An estimated 600 staff will be eligible for an offer to relocate to the UK. Given that these staff are also eligible to bring immediate family members with them, it is estimated that up to 3,600 people could relocate to the UK under the scheme over the coming years.
The scheme is based on the premise that local authorities will volunteer to host agreed numbers of former staff and their families in return for funding that is designed to cover the costs that are incurred. This funding covers the cost of providing accommodation and financial support prior to mainstream benefits coming on stream, and also covers some costs associated with the integration needs of the individuals and families concerned.
The UK Government has indicated that the characteristics of the former employees who are eligible to come to the UK provide good indictors of future employability and desire to work. For instance, many will have been employed as interpreters, so will have some degree of English language ability, while in many instances they will also have exhibited both bravery and loyalty in the work that they carried out for the Government. As such, the scheme may be of particular interest to councils that are seeking to increase their working age population. It may also provide a funding stream for councils that have vacant housing stock, or particular areas that are suffering from depopulation, where the individuals and families could be housed.
Five Scottish local authorities are currently participating in the scheme. Any councils that are interested in participating can contact us for advice. We can also facilitate contact with councils that are already participating in the scheme to share learning.