Cllr Kaya Comer-Schwartz, Executive Member for Community Development, explains why Islington Labour councillors are urging the Tory Government to do more to support Syrian refugees.
Local authorities such as Islington have played a key role in resettling Syrian refugees in the UK, but the Tory Government is failing to live up to its promises to do the same. Following concerns raised by Labour’s Lord Alf Dubs, Islington Labour councillors are urging the Government to make three commitments to demonstrate its continued support for Syrian refugees.
Our primary concern is that the Government has so far failed to confirm the continuation of the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme (SRVPS) beyond 2020. This scheme, which Islington is proud to be a part of, aims to resettle 20,000 Syrian refugees in the UK. We are urging the Government to extend this important scheme, so that our country can continue to be a safe haven for those who desperately need it.
Secondly, the Government must also take in more unaccompanied Syrian children who have already experienced so much. Lords Dubs has played an important role in this, and it is thanks to him that we have the Dubs Amendment that enables unaccompanied children to come and live safely in the UK. However, the Government needs to lift the cap on the number of children, as we believe local authorities are in a position to provide more foster care places for Syrian refugee children.
Finally, we are also urging the Government not to turn its back on the UK’s humanitarian responsibilities after the UK leaves the European Union. This means honouring commitments under the Dublin Treaty, which enables unaccompanied refugees in one EU country to be reunited with their family in another, once the UK is no longer a member of the European Union. Lord Dubs successfully tabled an amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill committing the Government to endeavour to do so, but we must ensure they uphold this agreement.
Islington has a proud history of being an open borough that is home to people from different backgrounds and countries from across the world. From supporting the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa to our welcoming of and support for Syrian refugees, we have long fought for justice for the vulnerable and dispossessed.
I am proud that we welcomed our 15th Syrian family to Islington this summer, and were one of the first local authorities in the UK to do so under the SVPRS. We want to offer shelter to more Syrian refugees, which is why we are urging the Government to extend the scheme.
One of the ways in which we have been working to help more Syrian refugees start new lives in Islington is by appealing for landlords to offer accommodation in the borough. Local people’s compassion and generosity have really shone through, with many contacting the Council to open up their doors.
I am also extremely grateful to our partners in the voluntary sector and the local community have played an important role in helping Syrian refugees resettle in Islington. I am excited that the appointment of Islington’s first Migrants Champion, Cllr Sue Lukes, will enable us to further connect migrants with local services and ensure their voices are heard.
The Tory Government has a vital role to play in helping Syrian refugees resettle in the UK, which it can do by meeting the three asks set out by Islington Labour councillors. Its failure to do so far is yet another indictment of their ideological approach to creating a ‘hostile environment’ for immigrants.