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Reaction: UK's refugee scheme extended!

After a campaign running 12 months and spanning the country Citizens UK leaders are celebrating after hearing that the Government's refugee resettlement scheme is being extended.

Citizens UK leaders pledged to continue welcoming refugees in their communities.

Reverend Cathy Wiles, All Saints West Dulwich, said: “This morning we proudly welcomed Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes to our church to meet with refugee families and local organisations who have helped integrate 27 refugee families to our Borough of Lambeth."

Leaders meet Caroline Nokes at a private visit to a South London Citizens church this morning



"Today’s announcement is welcome news and means thousands of families, who desperately need this lifeline, can arrive in the UK via safe and legal routes. However, this should be the first step in a longer commitment if refugee resettlement, including Community Sponsorship, is to flourish.”

Barbara Wilson, Lambeth Refugees Welcomes and leader with Citizens UK, said: “We’re grateful that the Government today announced a one-year extension for the scheme and that families arriving via Community Sponsorship are additional to the overall Government target. We’re hopeful that this will act as a great incentive for more voluntary groups to take part in refugee resettlement and help bring families to safety.”

What the changes mean:

  • We've been calling for an extension of the scheme and the Government has committed to a further 5,000 refugees in 2020/21 as part of a New Global Scheme which brings together existing VPRS and VCPR schemes. We're currently awaiting further details of exactly how this scheme will work.
  • Community Sponsorship of refugees by groups of individuals is going to be on top of these numbers.  This is something we have been calling for and is crucial since all the work of planning resettlement, fundraising and welcoming families is done by the community in this case, so shouldn't be included in the Government run figures for resettlement. Find out how communities are doing this at SponsorRefugees.org
  • The Home Office has confirmed that people from other countries facing conflict and oppression will be included in this scheme. It was originally set up primarily to help Syrian people fleeing the conflict in their homeland. This is positive news as it allows the flexibility for refugees to come from both existing conflicts but also new areas where trouble may flare up and the UK needs to meet humanitarian need.

Read more for background on how refugee resettlements are going on around the UK.


  • London, Coventry, Birmingham and Bradford named ‘most welcoming’ cities after resettling more refugees though the UK Government’s flagship ‘VPRS’ refugee scheme than anywhere else in the country. Birmingham has also been recognized coming in 5th place.
  • Since the scheme launched in September 2015 a total of 15,977 refugees have been resettled in the UK via VPRS and 1,410 via VCRS. A further 281 refugees have been welcomed to the UK through local volunteer Community Sponsorship groups. The Government is on target to meet its commitment to resettle a total of 23,000 refugees by 2020.  

Data compiled by Citizens UK found London, Coventry and Bradford to be the “most refugees from the Syrian conflict through the Government’s resettlement programme than anywhere else in the country. 

Bradford and Glasgow also feature in the top 5, but when it comes to refugees resettled by nation/region Scotland (Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeenshire and Dundee), Northern Ireland (County Durham, Antrim, Armagh and Lisburn) and the North East of England (Newcastle, Gateshead and County Durham) are well ahead with 11 of the top 20 towns and cities from these parts of the country.  Wales is the only nation/region of the UK where every local council has participated in the resettlement programme, and its rural communities are pioneering community sponsorship in places such as Fishguard, Aberystwyth and Narberth. 

The data, compiled from official Government figures highlights the many successes of the scheme, with three in four councils across the UK – a total of 322 local authorities - having welcomed at least one or more family since the start of the scheme in 2014.   

Sponsor Refugees, the Citizens UK foundation which supports Community Sponsorship group, estimates there are now more than 150 active groups either directly sponsoring a refugee family or working towards welcoming a family to their community in 2019/2020, with hotspots in Wales, the South West, the North West and London.

However, this means 72 local authorities have failed to resettle a single refugee family in that time.  This includes affluent London boroughs such as Westminster, the City of London and Harrow. Britain's wealthiest county, Surrey, has only settled 4 refugees so far and some other home counties such as South Bucks, South Oxfordshire and South Cambridgeshire have not settled any refugees as part of the refugee scheme launched after the Syrian conflict. 

A few London boroughs are managing to go the extra mile to help refugees. Lambeth have settled the most: 112 refugees since 2015. Lewisham has the biggest pledge to settle by 2020: the Council has settled 17 Syrian and Iraqi refugee families since 2016 and plans to welcome 100 more over the next three years.  

Reverend David Butterworth, Methodist Minister for Birmingham District and leader of an interfaith sponsorship programme, said: “It’s no surprise that Coventry and Birmingham come out on top in regard to receiving refugees from the Syrian conflict. Both Coventry and Birmingham were devastated in the war and had to start life again. just like the refugees we’re now proudly resettling. We have also made a good start on Community Sponsorship in the West Midlands and there is an appetite to do more. ”  

Loubaba Mamluk, a leader with Citizens UK in Bristol, said:

“Working together, communities, councils and the UK government have transformed the lives of thousands of refugees displaced by the war in Syria, and helped them to build new lives here.  However, it would be a tragedy if the UK government allows this successful scheme to lapse.  The UNHCR estimates that there are 1.2 million refugees who need to be resettled globally, so it is important that the UK plays its part and extends the welcome beyond 2020.”  

Erica Brooks, Chair of Refugee Sponsorship Edinburgh, said: “It is great that my home city of Edinburgh and Scotland generally has been in the forefront of welcoming Syrian refugee families through the resettlement scheme. I am proud too that Refugee Sponsorship Edinburgh, which I chair, has become the first Community Sponsorship group to welcome a Syrian family in Scotland.  I know there is an appetite to welcome more refugees in Scotland, including from other countries.”

Comparatively, it’s the less affluent towns and cities such as Coventry, Birmingham, Newcastle, Gateshead and Glasgow that top the charts all having welcomed over 300 refugees. 


Top 20 most welcoming places in the UK for refugees* 




Number of refugees resettled   

1. London 


2. Coventry 


3. Bradford 


4. Glasgow 


5. Birmingham 


6. Edinburgh 


7. Gateshead 


8. Belfast 




10. Newcastle upon Tyne 


11. Sheffield 


12. Bristol 


13. Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon 


14. County Durham 


15. Antrim and Newtownabbey 


16.Redcar and Cleveland 


17.Lisburn and Castlereagh 




20. Aberdeenshire 



The Government launched its refugee resettlement scheme in September 2015 in the wake of the refugee crisis and the scheme aims to help the most vulnerable – survivors of torture, people with serious medical conditions, and women with children.   

In 2015 the government committed to extending the scheme and resettle 20,000 refugees by 2020, but campaigners are today calling for the government to extend the scheme beyond this date. As the refugee crisis continues because of the continuing war in Syria, many communities and charities are calling for the scheme to be extended to make sure Britain keeps up its proud tradition of welcoming refugees.    


About the data 

All data is aggregated from official Government statistics published quarterly. The original source is: as_20_q which is found in “ Asylum data tables Volume 4”. This is in the Migration Statistics list of tables in the latest release on gov.uk.

About Citizens UK   
Citizens UK organises communities to act together for power, social justice and the common good. The home of community organising in the UK and the Living Wage Foundation, Citizens UK has over 450-member organisations in alliances in London, Milton Keynes, Nottingham, Leicester, Birmingham, Wales, Leeds, Newcastle and Manchester. Citizens UK develops the leadership capacity of our members to organise against social injustice affecting their communities.  Citizens UK helped lead the Refugees Welcome movement in response to the conflict in Syria and  successfully lobbied many local councils and the UK government to commit to resettle refugees.

About Sponsor Refugees  
Sponsor Refugees is a project of Citizens UK set up to help local volunteer groups to resettle a refugee family in their neighbourhood via Community Sponsorship.  It is working with more than a hundred Community Sponsorship groups across the country.

About Community Sponsorship   
Community Sponsorship is a scheme launched by the British government in July 2016, at the height of the refugee crisis, in response to growing pressure from civil society. It was inspired by the successful Canadian private sponsorship model, which has seen over 300,000 refugees resettled since 1979.   

There are currently 150 Community Sponsorship groups across the UK and vary from long-established groups, such as faith institutions, colleges or workplaces. Others are friendship groups or neighbours





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