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Councils to get emergency funds to help more Syria refugees

Money will be diverted from the UK’s international aid budget to help councils pay for the costs of settling thousands of Syrian refugees, the government says.

Chancellor George Osborne said the money diverted from the £11.8bn aid budget will fund the refugees – especially orphans – for their first year in the UK, and will also support Syria’s neighbouring countries who host the camps.

He said: “In the short term we are going to take more refugees, but not in a way that encourages them on to these dangerous boats. In the longer term we need a fundamental rethink of our aid policy.”

The money will be specifically targeted at councils to help with housing costs, he added. Critics said the government should not raid a budget that is specifically there to help people in need abroad.

Prime minister David Cameron will announce today just how many extra refugees the UK will help, with various reports suggesting it may be more than 10,000, and could even approach the 18,000 demanded by the EU. MPs will be briefed later today.

The government says it wants to concentrate its help on orphans and other refugees still in the camps near Syria so as not to incentivise further dangerous journeys across Europe for those seeking to reach the UK. 

Migrants from Syria, Afghanistan arrive on Lesbos. July 15. AP Photo, Santi Palacios

It is thought that the Syrian conflict has forced at least 11 million people to abandon their homes, with around a quarter of a million people killed. 

Many councils – at least 40 – have said they would be willing to offer sanctuary. But councils in Greater Manchester are among those saying they already take more than their fair share of asylum seekers.

PSE has sought comment from the Local Government Association about the government’s latest offer of emergency funding for councils to help new refugees. The LGA’s David Simmonds told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme last week that councils in England are already helping 2,000 unaccompanied refugee children, cost about £50,000 a year for each child. Another £150m is helping families still in the UK whose asylum applications were rejected, but who are destitute.

He said councils are happy to help, but they must be given the “resources” to fund it.

Scotland's first minister Nicola Sturgeon has insisted the UK can do more to help refugees fleeing Syria for Europe, and met representatives from the refugee community during a humanitarian summit at St Andrew's House in Edinburgh at the weekend. 

Nicola Sturgeon with refugee representatives, humanitarian summit Sept 15

Tell us what you think – have your say below, or email [email protected]

(Top image shows eight-month-old Maria and her father Ibrahim from near Damascus, Syria, on a train on Saturday, having recently arrived in Europe. Credit: AP Photo/Kerstin Joensson)


Brianc   07/09/2015 at 13:15

It is just amazing that money can pop up from nowhere to help these people, when services for our own population are constantly being eroded due to lack of funds! Further words fail me.

Broley   07/09/2015 at 13:26

I fully endorse what Brianc has stated. Further to that, I don't see how critics can say " the government should not raid a budget that is specifically there to help people in need abroad." These people are abroad and are certainly in need so what is the problem with raiding the Overseas Budget?

Daveb   07/09/2015 at 15:17

David Simmonds budget of £50,000 per year for each child seems a tad high. Most families manage to bring up children, feed themselves, provide a roof and a car on average salaries of less than £30,000. Perhaps we should review how we are managing refugee children.

No Frills.   07/09/2015 at 17:45

The way to prevent this problem escalating in the future is to seek a world wide ban to the manufacturing and sale of all weapons of mass destruction that causes war, chaos and destruction on a scale not seen since WW1 and WW2. If economics take precedence over human life then expect this problem to multiply and quadruple in the future. The refugee numbers being helped by UK are but a drop in the ocean but nevertheless appreciated by the "lucky" few who have made the hazardous journeys. What about the millions languishing in non-European make-shift refugee camps with little or no rights?

Victoria   09/09/2015 at 14:41

I am still wondering why we don't hear of Saudi Arabia taking any refugees. As for the large numbers of young men arriving by the thousands, I wonder about their intentions.

Mrs H   10/09/2015 at 21:34

I totally understand their plight but also believe that charity starts at home. We have a massive housing, Gang, food bank and every other crisis going on in England at the moment so it leaves a bad taste to know that whilst we are pushed further back down the que other walk straight I to the top without making any economic contribution to ther community like many of us do. I do feel sorry for them but I also feel sorry for many of my friends, family, neighbours and general people I know of whom all are educated, employed hardworking people. They just simply can't afford 30k deposits for homes and luxuries that many seem to be given.

Gillian   11/09/2015 at 11:39

I am also amazed how quickly the Foreign Aid budget can be raided when it suits. There are people already living in the UK who have been on Council waiting lists for years and as another correspondent says, most families in the UK live on a lot less than £50,000, what impact is that going to have on social cohesion. Everyone feels awful about what is happening, but it is not our fault. It is the politicians who have helped to create this and it needs a strategy. Has anyone considered the long-term effects on our infrastructure and the cultural changes this brings. The Government's responsibility is to keep the people in the UK safe and letting in people without any checks is absolute suicide and totally irresponsible no matter how serious a humanitarian crisis this is.

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