- What is a Refugee Resettlement?
- Does the UK Have a Resettlement Scheme?
- What Is The Eligibility Criteria For Refugee Resettlement?
- The Resettlement Process to the UK
- The Rights Resettled Refugees Have
- How Long Are Resettled Refugees Allowed to Stay in the UK?
- Resettlement vs. Asylum
- How Our Immigration Lawyers Can Help
- Frequently Asked Questions
What is a Refugee Resettlement?
Refugee resettlement is where recognised refugees are selected to be transferred to a host country who have agreed to accept and support them.
Separate from claiming asylum which is a domestic process, refugee resettlement is closely related to international refugee resettlement agencies such as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). This agency determines who is eligible for resettlement and then proposes cases to governments in host countries.
In 2022 alone, 108.4 million people were forcibly displaced worldwide due to conflict, persecution, and human rights violations. Many refugees choose to turn to the UK to rebuild their lives. For example, Syrian citizens made up 70% of resettlement cases in the UK in 2021. In response to this increasing global demand, the UK offers a range of specific schemes to assist those who are most in need of help.
The government has a number of resettlement schemes available for recognised refugees. Although each scheme has slightly different eligibility criteria, they all provide safe and legal routes for refugees to come to the UK.
To make sure you are targeting the most appropriate resettlement scheme, it is important to note the differences and figure out which one applies to your circumstances.
The UK Resettlement Scheme
The UK Resettlement Scheme is only available for people who are recognised as refugees by the UNHCR and UK government. Although it is notoriously difficult to be accepted by the UNHCR, this scheme allows refugees to travel to the UK through a safe and legal route and provides ‘refugee status’ for five years.
This scheme requires the UK government to work in tandem with refugee resettlement agencies. Whilst the UNHCR chooses its candidates and presents these to the UK, the UK must then sift through these cases and decide which individuals it wishes to accept to the UK.
Community Sponsorship Scheme
This programme enables community members to get together and welcome refugees into their neighbourhoods. This is done by a sponsoring family and is confined to specific local areas. This scheme began in the UK in 2016 but it has a long history in other countries like Canada and Argentina dating back to 1979.
To be eligible for this scheme, applicants must pass all the criteria required for the UK Resettlement Scheme. The community in question may also have a list of its own criteria.
Mandate Resettlement Scheme
As with the UK Resettlement Scheme, the Mandate Resettlement Scheme requires applicants to be recognised as refugees by the UNHCR. This scheme is for refugees who have close family already living in the UK and who are willing to accommodate and support the applicant.
In this case, ‘close family’ is classed as a minor child, spouse, or parent/grandparent over the age of 65. The UK relative does not need refugee status and adult siblings may be considered in exceptional circumstances, such as medical or victim-based cases.
Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme
This resettlement scheme has recently received more media attention due to the volatile situation in Afghanistan. Although resettlement from Afghanistan to the UK was already in place, the withdrawal from Afghanistan at the end of 2021 greatly increased demand. This provides a route to safety for those who have been put at risk due to the withdrawal from Afghanistan.
The government committed to resettling 5,000 people in the first year and then up to 20,000 in the years that followed.
This scheme is split into three ‘pathways’ which can be viewed as tiers of priority:
- Vulnerable and at-risk individuals who arrived under the evacuation programme including women, girls, and members of minority groups who are now at risk due to the current political situation
- Referrals from the UNHCR based on their ‘submission categories’
- Anybody at risk who supported the UK’s efforts in Afghanistan who has stood up for the values of democracy, women’s rights, free speech, and the rule of law
What Is The Eligibility Criteria For Refugee Resettlement?
The specific eligibility criteria for resettlement to the UK depends on the specific scheme under which a refugee seeks to resettle.
The UK Resettlement Scheme and Mandate Resettlement Scheme are closely linked to the UNHCR which is an international agency that assesses people to see if they meet the eligibility criteria to be resettled in the UK. The UK government is deliberately very specific about what constitutes ‘refugee status’ to ensure that the right people are being protected.
To be a refugee in the UK, you must be unable to live safely in your home country because you fear persecution there. This persecution must be one based on your religion, race, political opinion, nationality, or any other factor that puts you at risk because of the specific political circumstances in your country, such as your gender identity or sexual orientation.
It is important that you are not from an EU country, that you have travelled to the UK through a ‘safe route’ and that you do not have a connection to a ‘safe third country’ that could have considered your claim. The UK government classifies a ‘safe third country’ as one where you are not a citizen, where you would not be harmed, and where you would not be moved to another country where you may be harmed.
The UNHCR has various ‘submission categories’ it uses to assess whether refugees are eligible for resettlement, and these include:
- Family reunification
- Medical needs
- Lack of foreseeable alternative durable solutions
- Legal and/or physical protection needs
- Women and girls at risk
- Survivors of violence and/or torture
- Children and adolescents at risk
Many refugees are resettled because they have particular health needs that cannot be treated in the country where they are living and that puts their lives at risk. It is also common for refugees who have been victims of violence and/or torture to be selected for resettlement, which accounts for about 30% of cases. Similarly, children who have no access to education may be prioritised for resettlement as this violates basic human rights.
Aside from the UNHCR, the UK government will also consider a number of national factors when considering resettlement cases. For example, it will assess whether local authorities have the resources needed to resettle refugees into the UK and if there are adequate future government funding commitments in place to do this properly. This is to ensure that refugees can integrate into their new society once they have resettled.
UNHCR will also screen anybody considered for resettlement to determine their security level. They will reject anybody who has committed serious crimes, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. Caseworkers may also pay attention to a range of additional factors that may impact resettlement decisions, such as:
- Travel history
- Any previous occupations
- Past involvement in the conflict the individual is fleeing from
- Military service
- Links to terrorism or extremism
- Involvement in government authorities
It is important to be open with UNHCR about these factors and failing to be transparent can have an adverse impact on your case being considered for resettlement in the UK.
The Resettlement Process to the UK
Whenever there are global conflicts and events, such as the conflicts in Africa and the Middle East over the past few decades, there is always a spike in people claiming asylum in the UK. Since the various schemes became available, the number of people seeking resettlement in the UK has also increased. For example, 2021 saw a much higher resettlement rate of 18,345 people due to the evacuation of Afghanistan and the fall of Kabul.
For the UK Resettlement Scheme and Mandate Resettlement Scheme, the UNHCR will use the criteria listed above to identify the refugees who are most in need of resettlement. Then it will submit a number of candidates to the UK government to consider for resettlement, who then choose who they wish to accept.
Any refugee who is accepted to resettle in the UK will receive health assessments and cultural orientations before arriving. This will be conducted by the International Organisation for Migration and any relevant information will be handed to local authorities.
Whilst the refugee is preparing to move, the national government, local councils, and various national and international organisations will cooperate to prepare and plan their resettlement and make sure that everything is in place for a smooth resettlement. The national government will receive offers of accommodation either from a local authority or on a regional basis through what is called a ‘Strategic Migration Partnership’. These offers will be compared and a refugee will be matched with a local authority that has the relevant accommodation and support they require.
The government’s arrivals team will arrange for refugees to travel to the UK six to eight weeks after they have been assigned accommodation and exact time frames can depend on the permit process for the existing country. The International Organisation for Migration will send an official escort to meet the refugees at the airport and take them to their accommodation. They will then be greeted by representatives from their local authority or community sponsor group and they will be provided with a variety of resources and useful information to help them understand and adapt to their new surroundings. Those resettling under the Mandate Resettlement Scheme will have their travel reimbursed.
Anybody who resettles to the UK will be issued with a biometric residence permit (BRP) which is used to confirm a person’s identity, age, immigration status, right to work, and right to access public funds like benefits. This will include the national insurance number given to the individual as part of their resettlement and fingerprints and photographs will need to be taken as well. This is usually sent to local authorities and community sponsorship groups prior to arrival.
The Rights Resettled Refugees Have
Anybody who has been resettled to the UK will have the same rights as somebody who is granted ‘refugee status.’ As such, they will be able to work freely and they will be able to access public services such as the NHS and free state education. This applies to any of the four resettlement schemes outlined above.
Having been granted refugee status, you will now be entitled to a range of government benefits to help support you once you have moved to the UK, and these include:
- Universal credit if you are unemployed or if you are currently earning a wage that cannot fully support you
- Pension credit if you are of UK state pension age of 66
- Housing benefits if you need assistance paying rent or if you are in temporary or supported housing
- Refugee integration loan to help pay for rent deposit, household furniture, appliances, and items, and also for education and work-related training
Refugees who are being resettled to the UK also have the right for their dependents to be considered so that the unity of the family is preserved. UNHCR will ensure that host countries have flexible policies when it comes to resettlement to ensure dependents are also considered.
How Long Are Resettled Refugees Allowed to Stay in the UK?
If a person is accepted to resettle in the UK, they are automatically granted five years of ‘refugee status’. This means anybody resettled to the UK can enjoy the same rights as a refugee for five years. Refugees who have moved to the UK under the various resettlement schemes can also apply for indefinite leave to remain (ILR) in the UK, but this only applies to those who:
- Have protection status as a refugee or person with humanitarian protection
- Have discretionary leave to stay in the UK
If anybody under the various resettlement schemes commits a crime then their refugee status will be reviewed. If they have been convicted of a serious crime and are classed as being a danger to the public then their refugee status may be revoked. In this case, the refugee would be given a form of limited leave instead and the conditions would depend on the individual’s citation and the crime they have committed. Depending on the crime, dependents may be allowed to retain their refugee status. However, these processes are always decided on an individual case-by-case basis.
Resettlement vs. Asylum
Refugees claiming asylum and refugees seeking to resettle in the UK both want the same outcome but they usually have different starting points. In both cases, the individual is asking for permission to live in the UK. However, a person claiming asylum in the UK is already in the country and has arrived from a port of entry, whereas somebody resettling in the UK is not yet in the country and is asking for permission to arrive.
Another difference is that individuals claiming asylum have not yet been granted ‘refugee status’ (which is only granted upon a successful asylum application). However, a person who is resettling in the UK is given this status as a part of their resettlement. This means that an individual whose asylum claim is rejected will face being removed from the UK.
This issue of refugee status also means that a resettled refugee can access the NHS, free state-level education, and benefits whereas an asylum seeker will have to rely on asylum-only support. This includes Section 95, Section 98, and Section 4 accommodation and financial provisions, should they be required. Similarly, an asylum seeker will not have much access to integration support whereas a settled refugee will be assisted and provided with information and contacts to help with their integration process.
Compared to other EU countries, in 2021, the UK ranked 6th highest when it came to the absolute number of asylum seekers and resettlement cases it accepted.
Resettling to the UK is a complicated and lengthy process and there are many stages involved. Perhaps you have already been selected by the UNHCR, or maybe you are awaiting a decision. Either way, it is important to understand everything you can about the various schemes to ensure you make the most of resettlement opportunities.
Here at Birmingham Immigration Lawyers, we understand the resettlement process from start to finish. Not only this but we also have expertise in a range of areas including UK visas, asylum and detainees, work and business, and UK residency and citizenship.
If you have any further questions about resettlement schemes or any of our other services then simply call 0121 667 6530 or get in touch online to speak to one of our team of immigration lawyers.
Last modified on November 6th, 2023 at 8:26 am
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Refugee resettlement is important because it provides a safe and legal route for refugees to come to the UK who are most in need of help.
The UK government will accept anybody who has already met the criteria to be classed as a refugee under its asylum process. Then it looks at a number of ‘submission categories’ to decide whether resettlement is applicable, and these categories include medical needs, women and girls at risk, children at risk, physical and legal protection needs, and family reunification.
Because it is a scheme initiated by the UNHCR, many countries participate in the resettlement scheme, including but not limited to the UK, USA, Sweden, Australia, Brazil, Greece, Canada, and Italy
Some refugee resettlement schemes are initiated by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees which is the leading agency regarding resettling refugees. This agency selects those initially eligible for resettlement by ensuring that any refugees selected fall under a number of ‘submission categories’. After this, it then approaches a range of countries that have the support available to successfully integrate these refugees into society.
Anybody who is resettled to the UK is granted ‘refugee status’ for a period of five years, which allows them access to the National Health Service, just as any other citizen.
Because resettling is a complex and significant process for a refugee, there is a range of programmes available which include reception accommodation, orientation, basic healthcare, case management services, and income support until resettled refugees are self-reliant.
Many refugees resettling in the UK choose to live with a family member but there are also direct housing associations designed for resettling refugees and there is also the option to rent privately if suitable accommodation can be found.