Agenda item

Borough's Response to Refugees

To review the support and services provided to refugees in the Borough.


A requested update to the report submitted to the Committee on 8 November 2022 explaining the Borough’s response to refugees was before councillors for consideration.


In her introduction to the report, the Lead Councillor for Community and Organisational Development set out some relevant background information and thanked officers for their hard work to ensure that refugees living in Guildford received the support they required.


The Joint Executive Head of Community Services advised that the purpose of the report was to inform the Committee of the support given to refugees and to invite comments in respect of the services delivered.


The Council remained involved in supporting refugees through the following core schemes financially supported by the Government:


·            Syrian Vulnerable People Resettlement Scheme (VPRS)

·            Afghanistan Relocation and Assistance Policy (ARAP)

·            Homes For Ukraine Scheme

·            Asylum Seeking Bridging Hotel (where people had claimed asylum and were awaiting a decision as to whether they would be allowed to remain in the UK as a refugee)

·            Community Sponsorship


Each of the above was a different scheme led by the Government to support the refugee situation within the UK.  The Council’s duty and involvement varied depending on the scheme.


Whilst the Homes for Ukraine Scheme was continuing and funded until 2025, the schemes to support refugees from Syria and Afghanistan were closing and had been successful in integrating the affected people into local communities with the assistance of the Family Support Team.


People occupying the Asylum Seeking Bridging Hotel managed by the Home Office had a different status from other refugees.  The Council had expressed concern in response to the Home Office’s confirmation of plans to increase the amount of accommodation available at the Hotel, to cater for up to 196 refugees, by introducing some room sharing.  This could create difficulties and increase demand for local services, particularly health and education, and ultimately place pressure on the housing market.


The following points arose from ensuing questions, comments, and discussion:


·            People were accommodated at the Hotel whilst their applications for asylum status were determined.  In the event that their applications were accepted, the occupants were evicted within 28 days and would probably present to the Council as homeless unless their allocated Home Office support worker could assist in this area.  Those whose applications were unsuccessful were also likely to be moved with a view to deportation.


·            The local community was supportive of the concept of the Hotel and its guests and wished to assist them where possible.  In addition, the Council was working jointly with local partners including the health, voluntary and education sectors to offer support as many of the asylum seekers had suffered trauma and were experiencing both physical and mental health issues.  Those assisting refugees could also be affected and were offered support where available.


·            School age children residing at the Hotel were placed in the nearest schools on arrival, subject to school capacity, and appeared eager to attend.  However, school transport and the associated funding could be an issue.


·            The extension of the Homes For Ukraine Scheme had presented some challenges, particularly for hosts.


RESOLVED that an update Borough Response to Refugees report be brought to the Committee in September 2024, or sooner in the event of significant change.


Supporting documents: