Providing home for refugees and asylum seekers in London
It was fantastic to hear that a Syrian Refugee Family has been housed by the Archbishop of Canterbury in a cottage in the grounds of Lambeth Palace. This is a great prophetic act, that demonstrates what our response can be to those fleeing for their lives.
Offering hospitality and welcome to refugees via spare room or even individual properties has been a common desire expressed by many in response to the plight of refugees.
Over the past months there have been calls from borough councils across London together with local Refugee Welcome committees for individual properties for Syrian Refugees who are being resettled under the UNHCR Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme. We now hear about the Community Sponsorship Scheme, how is this different? And is there any opportunity to offer our spare rooms for refugees?
Syrian Refugee Resettlement with your local council
Many boroughs councils in London have agreed to become Resettlement Authorities, welcoming in Syrian refugees as part of the UNHCR Syrian Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme (VPR). The refugees who will be accepted into the UK are currently displaced in countries neighbouring Syria, assessed by the UNHCR and will meet the criteria of being particularly vulnerable. In London, those Local Authorities who have committed to resettle Syrian refugees are often unable because of the pressure on housing. In reality, for an authority to welcome in refugees they will need to use private landlords who are prepared to accept the Local Housing Allowance rate for their property. The property needs to have its own front door and ideally be a family sized property. In order to increase stability the property would ideally be made available for 2 years.
Refugee Welcome groups are working with most councils to facilitate this. Refugee Welcome groups are a broad network of civil society groups connected to CitizensUK supporting the resettlement of Syrian refugees. They are also gathering communities together who want to provide a welcome for refugees. If you would like more information about the property required in your borough them please email me.
Refugee Community Sponsorship Scheme
This is a new way, that Refugees can be resettled in the UK. They are again identified through the UNHCR Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme (VPR). Instead of the local council being the resettlement authority it’s community and faith groups, charities, churches and businesses taking on the role of supporting resettled refugees in the UK.
Sponsors will provide housing for the refugee family for two years, as well as helping them to integrate into life in the UK, access medical and social services, arranging English language tuition and supporting them towards employment and self-sufficiency for one year. Sponsors need to have agreement with their local authority and have to apply to the Home Office to be sponsors. This involves submitting a detailed resettlement plan. The full details including how to apply are on this link.
Please do email me if you’d like to discuss further how your church may become a Community Sponsor. Let us know if you are applying to be a Community Sponsor, it’s great to hear what’s happening across the Diocese and helpful to link up other interested churches.
Hosting destitute refugees and asylum seekers in your spare room.
If you have a spare room that you would like to use to host a refugee / asylum seeker then Housing Justice, run the London Hosting Project. The guests can be in a range of situations be refugees who are waiting for their NI number and so can’t work or access benefits, they may be working on a fresh claim for asylum and once that is submitted can be accommodated elsewhere. You can host for a weekend, weeks or months. This can be a great way to offer welcome and hospitality to people who have been forced to flee their home countries. You will hear more about this in the autumn and Christmas as we seek to encourage more people in the Diocese to host.
I hope this has brought some clarity and every blessing as you consider how you can respond