Syrian refugees and unaccompanied refugee children
- Surrey responded positively to the Government’s invitation in September 2015 to participate in the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme (SVPRS). The first families arrived before Christmas in Woking, with further arrivals in Mole Valley, Guildford and Reigate and Banstead this year. To date, the majority of Surrey district and borough councils have committed to the Scheme, most recently Elmbridge. Others are increasingly positive about taking part.
- Generally each district and borough has committed to taking 2-3 families per year, reflecting the limited affordable accommodation available. Projections are for up to 130 families to be settled over the 5 years of the programme. This compares very favourably with other areas of the South East and other counties.
- There is a strong and proactive multi-agency group co-ordinating the programme across Surrey, including district and boroughs, county council, schools, health, mental health and social care, the police and voluntary and faith sector. Yvonne Rees, Chief Executive of Mole Valley District Council and Strategic Director at Surrey County Council, chairs the group and leads this work for Surrey. She is also the national SOLACE lead on refugees and asylum seekers.
- Surrey’s approach has been to embed the resettlement of Syrian families into the Family Support Programme within the district and boroughs due to the synergies and track record of successful delivery. Since April, there is a regional infrastructure that supports Surrey with matching and co-ordination. While some other refugees and asylum seekers, including unaccompanied asylum seeking children, arrive spontaneously in Surrey, this is a planned programme of resettlement.
- Unaccompanied children are the statutory responsibility of Surrey County Council. As children who need to be ‘looked after’, they are provided with safe accommodation, either through foster care or other appropriate supported housing. The County Council is also responsible for ensuring that their emotional and physical needs are met, particularly important in cases where the child may have experienced torture or other forms of violence. Other duties include arranging interpreting services and supporting schools and colleges to provide education. Surrey County Council has the 3rd highest caseload of looked after unaccompanied asylum seeking children in the country.
- In line with Home Office guidance, and due to issues of safeguarding and confidentiality, details of the refugee families and children settled in Surrey are not released publicly.