- Dr Christopher McDowell (Principal Investigator)
Five million people have been forced to flee their homes because of the Syrian civil war. Many of them are vulnerable. The British Government responded by launching a resettlement programme for refugees.
Dr Christopher McDowell of City, University of London was asked to investigate how effective the programme was. The United Nations published this research in a report showing its strengths and weaknesses. And the findings influenced the Home Office to change the law.
What did we explore and how?
The Government launched the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Programme (VPRS) in 2014. Their goal is to resettle 20,000 of the most vulnerable refugees in Britain by 2020. “Vulnerable” refugees include those who have a physical or mental health condition that is linked to the conflict and can’t be treated adequately in the refugee’s first country of asylum.
Dr McDowell was asked by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organisation for Migration to find out how effective the Government's programme really was. He interviewed 160 resettled refugees and senior staff from eleven local authorities and the Home Office from August 2016 to January 2017.
The UNHCR published the research in a report called Towards Integration.
It shows the strengths and flaws of the VPRS, and highlights risks for particular groups of refugees.
Benefits and influence of this research
When Syrian refugees were resettled in the UK, they were given temporary ‘leave to remain’ status. This lets them stay for up to five years. Many Syrians feared this would make integrating difficult. They couldn’t plan for their long-term future if it seemed like they wouldn't be able to stay in Britain permanently.
Dr McDowell advised the Home Office to grant resettled Syrians full refugee status. This would lead to British citizenship. The Home Office responded positively to this recommendation. In May 2017 the Home Secretary announced those who entered the UK under the VPRS would be granted full refugee status from July 2017.
They also said refugees who resettled in the UK before this date could ask to have their humanitarian protection status changed to refugee status.
Syrian refugees can make plans for their future with peace of mind thanks to the change in policy. They can consider education and employment opportunities and have a legal right to healthcare in the UK. It will make integrating with the British way of life much easier. Not just for Syrians, but for anyone resettled under other programmes past and present.
Details of this research
Principal Investigator: Dr Christopher McDowell
Research status: Completed