Kingston Upon Thames has resettled a fifteenth Syrian refugee family, and exceeded the council’s 2016 target to welcome 50 Syrian individuals to the borough.
The families were resettled under the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme (VPRS), which was launched in January 2014 to help those in greatest need. In 2015, then prime minister David Cameron pledged that the scheme would resettle 20,000 Syrians who need protection by 2020.
The VPRS closed in March 2021, and settled a total of 20,319 Syrian refugees. With the arrival of its fifteenth family, Kingston has now welcomed 51 Syrians under the scheme, just over its original target.
Kingston councillor Tim Cobbett said: “The families have a much better quality of life than they would have without the scheme, despite the everyday challenges.”
The council is now reviewing its original target of resettling 50 Syrian individuals, and is also hoping to resettle Afghan refugees.
Liberal Democrat councillor Cobbett said: “At the moment the two schemes to resettle Afghan refugees will be the priority for our resources in this area.”
Kingston council works in partnership with Refugee Action Kingston (RAK) to resettle and support the refugees throughout their five-year integration. The support includes housing, language support, education, and employment.
Volunteer of RAK Ben Charman said: “It is [the scheme] a major life-changing gift for the families.”
However, Charman said he was not convinced that intensive support is always beneficial as sometimes families who receive less support become more independent.
Although the overall scheme has not yet been evaluated, Cobbett said that most of the indicators used to assess the VPRS are rated green, but more work is needed to improve the income and employment of refugees.
“These families, like many on benefits, face discrimination in securing their own properties because they are on benefits,” he said.
Alongside the 51 Syrian individuals, RAK works with around 900 other refugees.