Tower Hamlets has still taken no Syrian refugees as John Biggs slams ‘mealy-mouthed’ promises

John Biggs, Mayor of Tower Hamlets
Frustrated: Tower Hamlets’ mayor John Biggs

Tower Hamlets has still taken in no refugees under the government-run Syrian Resettlement Programme (SRP).

Citizens UK, which works with landlords who agree to rent properties to families who come into Britain under the scheme, said that while neighbouring Hackney had so far taken six SRP refugees, Tower Hamlets has taken none. Mayor John Biggs said he was “frustrated” because the process had been “bloody slow”.

He told the East End Citizen: “I think effectively the government has been somewhat mealy-mouthed about its promise, and secondly they are trying to disperse these families to lower cost parts of the country. There’s a limited amount we can do in the absence of funding and sponsorship.”

However, Biggs said Syrian refugee children who came into the UK under a separate scheme for unaccompanied minors had been housed with foster carers.

Under the terms of their visas, SRP refugees are entitled to stay in the UK for five years. They are entitled to a wide range of benefits and are also allowed to work. The government provides local authorities with around £8,000 per refugee accepted into their area under the SRP for the first 12 months of their stay. The money comes via the overseas aid budget.

The Home Office insisted councils will be able to apply for other types of funding after the first year, with a spokesperson assuring the East End Citizen that councils would not be left unsupported.

Zoe Gardner from charity Asylum Aid said there were concerns about future funding.

She said: “The government is only providing guaranteed funds for the first year to cover the cost of hosting these families, when obviously there might be costs that extend beyond that first period – and there’s no guarantee it won’t be the local council footing the bill.”

The government has said it condemns the brutal violence of the Assad regime and supports “diplomatic efforts to end the suffering and establish political transition” in Syria.

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