Refugee crisis – Frequently asked questions
What are you committing to today?
Camden Council is committing to resettle up to 20 refugee families in the borough. We are committing to work with Citizens UK, the Refugee Council, local organisations and other local authorities to offer what help we can to families who are finding themselves in this desperate situation. This includes exploring other local options above and beyond the minimum number which we have pledged to resettle.
How much will this cost?
It is difficult to put an accurate figure on it at this stage. Our broad estimates suggest that it would cost up to £29,000 per family in the first year and up to £40,000 per family per year thereafter. This assumes they are placed in the private rented sector in Camden and covers other costs such as health and education. This may vary because families will differ in size. Families will also have been through incredible hardship and will vary in terms of how much support they need.
Alongside the initial offer of support Camden will work with those who come to live here to help individuals into work to assist families in becoming self-sufficient over time.
How do you propose to finance this? How can you afford this in light of cuts to local government finance?
We are already facing significant financial pressures as a result of government cuts and social pressures and will have lost 50% of the funding we receive from government by 2018. However, we have a moral obligation to do our bit in the face of such a humanitarian crisis, and the Council will continue to have to prioritise its spending accordingly. We continue to believe that the Government should play a greater role in meeting this challenge.
Why are you targeting help for refugees when local people are in need?
We have a moral obligation to help in such a serious situation. We continue to work every day to support local people and any assistance we offer would have no effect on scarce resources like our limited supply of social housing.
What difference will helping families make to a Europe-wide crisis?
If each local authority did their bit and took just 20 families, then 20,000 families could be given sanctuary. Camden Council is leading the call for everyone to do their bit to alleviate the unimaginable suffering the refugee families have been facing. The number we could support might not make a large dent overall, given the number of people suffering, but it would clearly make a huge difference to those who we were able to house and support.
Why are you acting now?
A humanitarian crisis is unfolding in Europe of the like not seen since the Second World War. As Britain offered sanctuary to children and families in the 1930s, it is clear that the country must act again now. Local Authorities like Camden are prepared to take a lead and we call on the Government to provide the support and funding required to help councils provide refuge for those fleeing Syria and the surrounding area. Camden has a long history of helping refugees.
Where will you house these families?
We are still working through the practicalities of how this will work but we can make it clear that this will not impact on the already scarce social housing stock that we have. We are looking at solutions in the private rented sector and have also had positive discussions with local faith organisations about the role they can play in helping to support as many people as possible.
How many families are currently on waiting lists for houses in Camden?
There were 30,721 people on Camden’s housing allocation waiting list at the end of July. We are in the process of reviewing who is on the waiting list. People have until end of year to respond to a survey to clarify eligibility. But there is no suggestion that people on the waiting list for council houses will fall further back in the queue as a result of this commitment to house refugee families.
Are you working with any other local authorities or bodies to bring forward your proposals?
We are working closely with the Refugee Council and local and voluntary and community organisations to understand the best approach to take. This is not a political issue; it’s a humanitarian one that needs the support of all political parties in order to succeed. Camden will work with local and national government to make this happen and strongly encourages all other councils to do the same, if they haven’t already done so.
Is this a cross-party initiative?
This is not a political issue; it is a humanitarian one that needs support from all parties. We are keen to engage as many individuals and groups as we can and are leading the call for other councils to take similar action to Camden if they are able to.
Is this an annual commitment?
We are responding to an unprecedented crisis and are doing what we can to act now. We hope that other local authorities will support where they can and we will monitor how the situation develops, whilst continuing to urge national Government to take action.
How long will you support these families for?
This is a response to an immediate crisis and our first priority is to support those who we can. We will work closely with Citizens UK, the Home Office and local organisations to ensure we make sustainable plans to support those families for as long as is required. The people who come through the Syrian Vulnerable Person’s Relocation Scheme will be granted status prior to their arrival in the UK which gives them full recourse to public funds. The scheme provides support for a year, and people are given status for 5 years in the first instance.
What will the support entail?
These families will have faced incredible hardships and we will support them with housing, education and healthcare appropriate to their needs. We will also work closely with some of our local organisations to ensure they provide the additional social support they need.