Last year the Government announced that it would admit 20,000 Syrian refugees over the five years. Hammersmith and Fulham Council attacked the plan for not going far enough. Residents were urged to sign a petition calling for a higher figure as “the UK is not offering proportional asylum in comparison with European counterparts.” The council leader said that “we know from speaking to residents over recent days and weeks that many stand ready to help us in finding accommodation.” The Council used its publicity department to put out the message “Refugees Welcome.”
So what has been the reality?
Under the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme between the start of October 2015 and the end of March 2016, there have 1,602 people have been resettled across 71 different local authorities. The figure for Hammersmith and Fulham was nil. The updated figure is still nil. 71 local authorities are already participating. Hammersmith and Fulham are not.
The response from the Council is that it is willing to participate in principle – up to a maximum of 50 refugees. They will only be admitted if the cost is fully met from central Government – not a penny from the council’s resources, and additionally only if the housing can be found. Yet those who offered to take in refugees for free in spare rooms have had their offer ignored.
In any case, even if we provided sanctuary for 50 people (which seems a big if) that would be proportionately below providing 20,000 places in the UK. We have 200,000 people, the UK has 65 million. So we have 1/325th of the population. 325 multiplied by 50 comes to 16,250. So even the figure of 50 would not quite be the “proportional asylum” for the 20,000 figure. Yet the Council officially says that 20,000 is much too low.
The council’s official policy is “Refugees Welcome” – that does not appear to be the policy in reality.