UN refugee scheme proves unpopular with councils

A scheme designed to provide resettlement in the UK for up to
500 refugees a year has only helped 69 people since the government
agreed to take part in 2003, it has been revealed,
writes Amy Taylor.

A Home Office spokesperson refused to confirm reports that only a
small number of councils had been prepared to co-operate with the
United Nations High Commission for Refugees’ Gateway
Protection Programme but admitted that “take-up to now has
been slow”.

The scheme involves the safe transfer of refugees from their
country of asylum to another country that has previously agreed to
take them. So far, only Sheffield Council has agreed to take 69
refugees originally from Liberia, in West Africa, and the
Democratic Republic of Congo, in central Africa.

The spokesperson said the government had identified a further 80
refugees who would be arriving before the end of this year with
more due next year.

Meanwhile, West Sussex Council is bracing itself for the arrival of
a further 90 British citizens from the Indian Ocean islands of
Diego Garcia over the next two weeks which it will have to provide
support for.

The council fears it will have to pick up the £500,000 bill
for supporting the islanders – 100 of which have been living
in West Sussex since 2002 – and make cuts in other public services
due to confusion over whether it or central government is
responsible for their welfare. 

The prime minister Tony Blair has written to the local MP saying
that West Sussex was not responsible for the islanders, but the
high court has twice ruled the council must provide basic care.
Discussions between the two are ongoing.

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