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14.09.15

Richard Harrington appointed minister for Syrian refugees

David Cameron has appointed a cross-departmental minister to focus purely on the settlement of Syrian refugees in the UK.

The prime minister said Richard Harrington MP has been appointed minister jointly at the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), the Home Office and the Department for International Development.

He will also be the deputy chair of the ministerial group on Syrian refugees at the DCLG, reporting primarily to communities secretary Greg Clark MP.

Harrington will chair the Syrian refugee group at the Home Office under home secretary Theresa May MP.

Harrington, the Conservative MP for Watford, will be responsible for coordinating and delivering cross-government work to resettle up to 20,000 refugees in the UK, as well as coordinating regional government support.

He was a member of the International Development Committee from July 2010 to November 2012, and lists the Middle East and Pakistan as two of his countries of interest.

The news comes a week after a government decision to divert money from the UK’s international aid budget to help councils finance costs of settling thousands of Syrian refugees.

Chancellor George Osborne had announced that money diverted from the £11.8bn budget fund would fund the refugees during their first year and support Syria’s neighbouring countries who host the camps.

Cllr David Simmonds, who chairs the LGA’s asylum, migration and refugee task group, said: “Due to the huge response from both councils and the public to offer accommodation to vulnerable people caught up in the current refugee situation, the LGA is working with local authorities to ensure that we make best use of those coming forward.

“We are currently in ongoing discussions with government and are calling for a long term plan, which includes for how vulnerable children, families and adults will be supported as they move to the UK. Councils need a commitment from government to provide full funding to support individuals and families and the public services they will depend upon.”

He added that support would be tailored to the needs of specific areas, all of which would be identified after the government released more details on refugees’ individual circumstances.

Cameron is paying a one-day visit to refugee camps in Lebanon today (14 September) during which he will call for the EU to focus its attention on helping displaced people in the region.

(Top image c. John Stillwell, PA Images)

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