Photo by Alessandra Kocman

Syrian Resettlement in Suffolk

As part of the Government’s Syrian Vulnerable Person Resettlement and Vulnerable Children Resettlement Schemes, Suffolk’s Public Sector Leaders have unanimously agreed to take up to 230 refugees from these two programmes by 2020. Those coming to Suffolk and across the UK are those at severe risk of harm or death or with serious medical conditions. Plans are in place to bring 23,000 refugees to the UK via these schemes.

A task group including representatives from local authorities, health, police and the voluntary and faith sectors coordinates the approach in Suffolk to provide appropriate housing, education, health and support services provision. Suffolk Refugee Support has been commissioned to provide specialist case work.

Due to the location of suitable housing, health, education and support services the refugees will be settled predominantly in the greater Ipswich area, with housing provided through private sector landlords.

Members of the task group work with the Home Office to agree the families which come to Suffolk based on the services and facilities we are able to offer. Security and health checks are carried out on all those being considered for resettlement before they arrive in the UK. Refugees will have leave to remain for five years on humanitarian grounds, this includes the ability to work.

As of September 2017, we have welcomed 77 refugees to Ipswich under the schemes. Despite all they have been through and the complex needs and vulnerabilities through which they were selected for resettlement, the families are settling in well and starting to succeed in their new lives with our support. Some are working, volunteering or setting up their own businesses, including two Syrian refugees who have become a valuable part of the staff team at Suffolk Refugee Support. Children are thriving in school and excelling in their studies, many speaking good English just months after arriving knowing barely a word. We have even welcomed the first babies born to resettled families, with these new arrivals representing hope for the future.

We have been overwhelmed by the generous response and kind gestures of the local community towards the Syrian families arriving in Suffolk. People have raised funds, donated household items, become befrienders and offered a warm welcome. As and when we need items or offers of help, we advertise for them through our Facebook page. You can also visit our Volunteer page to see what current opportunities we have to help with the scheme, or donate to our work here.



Q. How are refugees selected to be part of the scheme?

A. The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) undertake screening assessments in refugee camps to select individuals and families based on the following criteria:

  • Women and girls at risk;
  • Survivors of violence and/or torture
  • Refugees with legal and/or physical protection needs
  • Refugees with medical needs or disabilities
  • Children and adolescents at risk
  • Persons at risk due to their sexual orientation or gender identity and
  • Refugees with family links in resettlement countries

UNHCR assess Syrian families in refugee camps and refer cases to the Home Office who then check they meet the eligibility criteria and carry out security checks.

Q. When are the first refugees coming?

A. The first refugees arrived in Suffolk during March 2016.

Q. Where will refugees live?

A. There is no preconceived plan as to exactly where refugees will be housed, other than within the greater Ipswich area. As refugees will be arriving over a long period of time (up to five years), it is not possible to say at this stage exactly where they will be housed.

Q. How long can refugees stay in the UK for as part of the scheme?

A. Those who are accepted under the VPR scheme will be granted humanitarian protection giving them leave to remain in the UK for 5 years.

Q. What happens after the five years?

A. The refugees will choose whether they are in a position to return to Syria or they will apply for further leave to remain in the UK.

Q. Local services are already under pressure- surely this will tip them over the edge?

A. The numbers of refugees who will be arriving in Suffolk as part of this scheme is relatively small compared to the ebbs and flows of the population in the county. We considered the capacity of local services when deciding how many refugees we could offer to bring to Suffolk. These numbers will not create a noticeable impact on access to local services.

Q. How can I offer my support?

A. If you would like to donate items, time or money please see above

Q. Do you need offers of accommodation?

A. No thank you. We do not need offers of accommodation. Housing will predominantly be via private sector landlords.

Q. How will the settled community be supported?

A. We don’t expect the settled community will notice any difference. New people arrive to live in the county every day.

Q. Is crime and disorder likely to increase?

A. No. Statistically refugees arriving to live in the UK are more likely to be victims of crime.