Though resettlement schemes are government initiatives, there are ways for communities to get involved. Below outlined are the schemes running in the UK, with links to further guidance and community action.
1. The UK RST Scheme (UKRS)
UKRS is the government scheme launched following the conclusion of the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme (VPRS) which was targeted at Syrians, and the Vulnerable Children Resettlement Scheme (VCRS). Due to Covid, there were delays in launching the UKRS.
The aim is for the scheme to resettle approximately 5000 refugees within the first year of operations, with an expanded global focus. The scheme will continue to operate on a voluntary basis for local authorities – those local authorities wishing to receive resettled refugees can volunteer themselves and specify numbers.
Those resettled via Community Sponsorship will be in addition to the government’s UKRS quota. Individuals and communities may write to their local authority to request that they commit to resettling refugees in their area – SVP, a CSAN member, published a toolkit to support refugees and asylum seekers, which includes a guide to writing to your local authority.
2. The Mandate Scheme
The Mandate Scheme is for recognised refugees with close family members residing in the UK. The family member in the UK can sponsor their minor child, spouse, parent or grandparent over the age of 65, to resettle to the UK where the resident sponsor will provide for them.
If you know anyone who may have refugee family members and would like to know more, kindly direct them to the Gov.UK guidance.
3. The Community Sponsorship Scheme (CS)
The CS scheme, inspired by the Canadian model, was launched in the UK in 2016. It allows community groups to directly welcome and support a resettled family into their community.
Sponsors must apply to their local authority for consent to partake in the scheme and thereafter to the Home Office with proof of their ability to support a family, including fundraising for a designated support fund and identifying and securing accommodation. Refugee families to be resettled will be identified by the UNHCR and approved by the UK Home Office, prior to being matched.
Sponsors may comprise of community groups or church groups who decide to embark on this journey together and with the support of an identified Lead Sponsor – this may be a charity or organisation who would be approved by the Home Office to take on legal responsibility for the sponsorship and extend support to the sponsor group, such as a local Caritas organisation or diocese.
To become a sponsor, you may join an existing CS group or form one with like-minded individuals – you do not need any qualifications and do not need to know the others to form a group. Some groups may be small, and others may comprise of many members, each of whom will bring their unique personality to the role and offer tailored support. Getting involved with community sponsorship is an opportunity for individuals to learn more about their community and build new friendships in the process.
Sponsors must be able to house their sponsored family for a period of minimum 2 years and support them financially for the first year. Support will also include welcome, integration, and signposting to assist them towards learning English, employment, and self-sufficiency.
Reset have also published a CS guide and toolkits which provide information and guidance for those interested in the scheme.
The UK Home office has also published guidance for prospective sponsors.
Caritas Salford published a resource checklist for those partaking in the scheme, which provides a comprehensive understanding of what is required from sponsors. We strongly advise that those considering hosting/sponsoring, read through the hosting guidance shared by CSAN, its members, and partners to fully understand what it entails, including the challenges for sponsors and hosts.
4. The Afghan Citizen Resettlement Scheme (ACRS)
The ACRS was launched in January 2022 with the aim of resettling more than 5,000 in the first year and thereafter up to 20,000 individuals. Those resettled will receive Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK and the option to apply for citizenship after 5 years.
Three referral pathways have been identified for those eligible for resettlement:
- Those who arrived under the evacuation programme or were called for evacuation but unable to board flights;
- Referrals from the UNHCR of those who have fled Afghanistan and are in neighbouring countries;
- At-risk individuals who supported the UK in Afghanistan, as well as those identified to be particularly vulnerable (e.g. women and girls, minorities).
Under ‘Operation Warm Welcome’, an initiative to support new arrivals, local authorities are allocated funding packages per person to assist with integration. Additionally, the government committed to additional funds for housing costs, but it is at the discretion of local authorities as to whether they wish to be involved in the scheme. Those evacuated to the UK were placed in temporary accommodation and due to the lack of housing available, they continue to reside there until local authorities are able to find appropriate housing. There are concerns regarding the suitability of such accommodation long-term for the Afghan families and the impact this may have on their wellbeing.
Property owners and organisations wishing to support the process can register homes that may be available, on the government’s Afghanistan housing portal – this may be on either a commercial or charitable basis.
Those wishing to support Afghan people accommodated in hotels are advised NOT to take action on their own due to safeguarding concerns. The best way to support is to reach out to local charities and join their efforts so as to provide an effective and cohesive level of support whilst prioritising the wellbeing and safety of those in need of support.
Local councils are responsible for Afghan people accommodated in their area and they have partnered with local charities to provide support. Charities are coordinating support and activities, including day trips and educational activities. For those with time to spare and ideas for activities or fundraising, or simply wishing to contribute, we advise contacting your local Caritas agency for further information on how to get involved.
Image: Little Amal in London Credit: Catholic Church England and Wales on Flickr