The UK may not be prepared for the number of Syrian refugees the government plans to accept, MPs say.
Ministers plan to take 20,000 refugees by 2020 – a “huge change in the scale” of resettlement, according to Home Affairs Committee chairman Keith Vaz.
He said the committee was “concerned about our real level of preparedness and ability to increase capacity to manage such numbers at short notice”.
The government said “careful planning” was needed to “ensure we get it right”.
The committee said: “At no point in the recent past has the UK come near to resettling 4,000 refugees in one year.”
A total of 2,204 Syrians applied for asylum in the UK in the 12 months up to the end of June 2015, according to the Home Office.
An additional 216 Syrian refugees were resettled under the government’sVulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme between January 2014 and mid-2015.
Mr Vaz said the refugee crisis had reached an “unimaginable scale” this summer.
“The generosity of the British public in offers of assistance and even space in their homes has not been accepted by ministers. This should be reconsidered,” he said.
“Housing is likely to be one of the most difficult issues and it may be that, properly organised and supported, offers of private accommodation will be a helpful, viable and perhaps essential part of the solution.”
Mr Vaz’s comments come as the committee publishes a report on immigration, in which it recommends that the government sets out exactly how it plans to increase capacity for dealing with the influx of refugees.
The report’s findings include:
- The number of asylum seekers and other migrants detained for administrative purposes in the UK has increased
- It noted a “sudden increase” in the numbers of children being detained in 2015, saying this was “unacceptable” after the government said it would stop doing this
- On the government’s 100,000 immigration cap, the report said that an immigration target with an “arbitrary figure” was difficult to achieve. It suggested the government should “look again” at the issue of whether student numbers should be included in the figure
- It said the backlog of immigration cases at the Home Office stands at 318,159. The report said the biggest contributor to this is the “migration refusal pool” – made up of people whose temporary or permanent migration application has been refused but whose whereabouts is unknown to the authorities
Commenting on the concern about the number of Syrian refugees the UK plans to accept, Richard Harrington, minister responsible for Syrian refugees, said the government planned to resettle 1,000 Syrians “by Christmas”.
“We have already welcomed and successfully resettled a number of vulnerable people who were in desperate need of our help,” he said.
“The scale of the expansion needs careful planning to ensure we get it right.
“That is why we are continuing to work closely with the UNHCR, local government associations, NGOs and partner organisations in order to resettle 20,000 people by the end of this Parliament.”
He said there were plans to create a register of people willing to provide housing for refugees and to develop a “community sponsorship scheme” so members of the public and groups could give direct support.