Two-tier system hampers refugees in UK – MPs and peers


UN-run refugee camp in Syria.

Thousands of refugees face homelessness and destitution because of a “two-tier” UK system, MPs and peers have warned.

The all-party parliamentary group on refugees says people brought in through resettlement schemes receive more support than those given refugee status after arriving as asylum seekers.

Its report says the next government should create a ministerial post with specific responsibility for refugees.

Government officials point to a special migration fund set up last year.

More than 50,000 refugees are said to have arrived in the UK through the asylum route since 2012, while government-led resettlement programmes accounted for fewer than 10,000 people in the same period.

The report is critical of the 28-day cut-off period after an asylum claim is granted when government support is withdrawn. That is said to lead to “stress and despair” among newly-recognised refugees as they struggle to access housing and benefits.

According to the report the problems are made worse by administrative delays, patchy English language provision and a lack of employment, skills support and UK-wide integration strategy.

It says: “Those refugees who have come through the asylum route will have faced the same persecution and violence as those who are resettled.

“That two refugees who could have fled from the same country, the same town, even the same neighbourhood could have such different experiences of what it means to be a refugee in the UK is unacceptable.”

‘Missed opportunity’

It said support provided through the UK’s resettlement programmes and integration scheme run by the Scottish government were examples of good practice that could be replicated.

It added that a minister for refugees would be able to oversee the UK’s integration strategy and ensure there is a focus on refugee policy within government.

The chairwoman of the all-party group, Labour MP Thangam Debbonaire, said: “Creating a two-tier system for refugees, loading the dice against people who come here to build a new life, is not just the wrong thing to do, but a costly missed opportunity for Britain.”

She said most refugees wanted to return home when conflict is over but wanted to contribute to this country in the meantime.

“These are often skilled professionals and, by definition, they all have strength and determination to offer,” she added.

Stephen Hale, chief executive of the charity Refugee Action, said: “This report is a timely wake-up call. The new government must seize the opportunity to enable all refugees in Britain, regardless of how they arrive, to successfully rebuild their lives.”