Photo by Alessandra Kocman

Refugee Resettlement in Suffolk

The majority of the world’s refugees are in countries neighbouring their own, often living in refugee camps or highly vulnerable situations. Resettlement programmes can provide the only safe opportunity for a fraction of these refugees to rebuild their lives in another country.

Suffolk has been taking part since 2015 in the UK’s refugee resettlement programmes, offering protection to vulnerable families and individuals from the Middle East and North Africa. Suffolk Refugee Support has been engaged by Suffolk County Council to provide specialist casework – from greeting families on arrival to orienting them in all aspects of UK life – and to be the primary link with other agencies and support services.

Under the Vulnerable Persons & Vulnerable Children’s Resettlement Schemes (VPRS) we have welcomed around 140 people, mainly from Syria, to Ipswich. Despite all they have been through and the complex needs by which they were selected for resettlement, the families have settled in well and are rebuilding their lives with our support. Some are working or setting up their own businesses, including two Syrian refugees who have been a valuable part of the staff team at Suffolk Refugee Support in recent years. Others are volunteering, including one young Syrian who has dedicated himself to welcoming other refugee families arriving in Suffolk and who won the Suffolk High Sheriff’s Volunteer of the Year Award. Children are excelling in their studies and winning school awards, many speaking good English just months after arriving knowing barely a word, while young adults are starting university in the UK having worked extremely hard to get their English to a high enough standard and to catch up on lost studies. We have even welcomed the first babies born to resettled families, with these new arrivals representing hope for the future.

We have also welcomed Afghan families and individuals arriving in Suffolk under the UK government’s Afghan resettlement schemes, with around 85 people settled in houses across the county as well as some who are still in bridging accommodation after many months. These are predominantly people who worked with UK and western forces in Afghanistan and were in great danger when the Taliban took over their country once again in August 2021. As such, they qualified for resettlement to the UK under the ARAP scheme, although many more people eligible under this programme are still waiting to find safety. We are providing a warm welcome and orientation, volunteer support, English assessments and tuition, employment support and assistance getting children into school.

It is important to point out that the number of vulnerable refugees arriving in the UK under either the UK Resettlement Scheme (UKRS, which replaced the VPRS above) or the Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme (ACRS) remains pitifully low. Many of those who would be eligible or who have family already in the UK are forced to make dangerous journeys in search of safety or to be reunited with loved ones.

Thank you to everyone who has been so supportive of these people who have been through so much. We have been overwhelmed by the generous response and goodwill of the local community towards the families arriving in Suffolk. You can keep up-to-date with the latest refugee resettlement news by signing up to our mailing list in order to receive our newsletter, or by following us on Facebook where we also post updates and appeals.