Syrian refugee crisis

West Sussex response to the Syrian refugee crisis


Syria has been in the grips of a multi-sided armed conflict since March 2011. Over 13.5 million people – including six million children – are in need of humanitarian assistance within Syria and the registered Syrian refugee population in the region is now in excess of four million.

In addition to providing funding to meet the needs of vulnerable people in Syria and of refugees in the region, the Government announced on 7 September 2015 that the scheme would be expanded to resettle up to 20,000 Syrians in need of protection in the UK during this Parliament.

The Government is working closely with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to identify more vulnerable Syrians that they deem in need of resettlement and whose particular needs can only be met in countries like the UK.

Local authorities across the country have been asked if they would be able to participate in the scheme that will bring those people from the camps to begin new and safe lives in the UK.

West Sussex County Council in conjunction with all of the district and borough councils, the Clinical Commissioning Groups in West Sussex, Sussex Police and voluntary groups across the county have committed to take part and have offered places for 240 people to arrive over the duration of the scheme.

Further information



When can we expect Syrian refugees to arrive?

The Government commitment to bring 20,000 refugees of the Syrian conflict to the UK was made in September 2015, with 1,000 refugees resettled before Christmas. The remainder will be brought to the UK over the next four years.

The first refugees coming to West Sussex have arrived and are learning about and adapting to life in a new country.

How many Syrian refugees will arrive in West Sussex and where will they go?

In total, West Sussex has pledged to accept 60 families or 240 people over the remaining four year period of the scheme. We have chosen this number as it represents the ‘fair share’ of the national target of 20,000 refugees that West Sussex should take, based on the county’s population compared to that of the UK as a whole.

Each district and borough council area is supporting the scheme and so the refugees will be housed across West Sussex as appropriate housing becomes available. We will also be ensuring that services including schools and GPs are not inundated with new pupils or patients as a result of these people coming to the county.

How do you know these people will be genuine refugees, not economic migrants?

In order to qualify for this scheme, people must be within the refugee camps in the region, register with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and must meet one of 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
  • refugees with family links in resettlement countries.

Once registered the UNHCR undertake biometric testing, health assessments and case history gathering. Once cases are confirmed, details are passed to Governments of participating countries (UK, USA, Canada and others) for the next stage.

For the UK, the Home Office then conducts further security and background checks and the Government retains the right to reject individuals on security, war crimes or other grounds, including where there is insufficient information to undertake effective screening.

Where are the refugees coming from?

The refugees in this scheme will be coming from camps in Turkey, Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and Iraq. Refugees or asylum seekers that have made their way across Europe are not part of this scheme and so none will be coming from France, Greece or any other European Union country.

Where will you house these families and will these people get preferential treatment for housing?

In partnership with district and borough councils we are looking at all of the possible options for housing refugees. Council and housing association properties will only be made available if the refugees meet the ‘eligibility and qualification’ criteria for Housing Allocation Schemes published by each of the local district and borough councils. We are also seeking support from private landlords (see ‘How can I help?’ tab).

Will this affect people already on the housing waiting list?

The numbers of families coming over the period, accommodated across the whole county equates to no more than three new families, per district or borough, per year. We are also encouraging private landlords to come forward where possible (see ‘How can I help?’ tab).

The county council and the local councils are confident that by limiting the number of people coming to West Sussex there will be not be a significant, negative impact on housing stock.

Why are you not doing the same to help homeless people in the county?

The district and borough councils and the county council continue to work to support all vulnerable people in the county, including those that are homeless. This is via direct assistance by district and borough housing teams, or by the support that is given to a range of charitable organisations that directly help those living on the streets or who are at risk of homelessness. To find out more about the services on offer please visit the 'Help with homelessness' web page on the West Sussex County Council website.

Who is paying for resettling the Syrian refugees? And how much will this cost?

The refugees arriving under this scheme are funded by the Government who are making money available from the International Development Fund. This will cover costs for providing caseworkers, securing housing, social care, health, education and support to integrate. Each case will be different as each family will have different needs, different skills and different backgrounds.

Funding from Government will reduce after the first year but does continue throughout the leave to remain period of five years. The refugees will be encouraged and supported to find employment.

When council services are being cut how will the council meet the extra costs of taking refugees?

Not all of the refugees will require support from social services or additional health services and we have requested that no complex cases or those that require nursing or residential care are sent to West Sussex. Funding is made available from Government whilst the refugees are here and, from the second year of their stay, they will also be included in the per capita funding that West Sussex receives as part of its funding settlement from Government.

How long will refugees stay here?

When the resettled refugees arrive, they are granted a five year humanitarian protection visa. At the end of this period individuals can apply for settlement in the UK or, if they choose to, return to Syria.

How long will you support these families for?

Caseworkers will be made available to work with the families for the first 12 months of their stay. We anticipate that this will be intensive for the first two to four weeks as the families become established but that the amount of input required will lessen over time. Following that initial support the families will be supported in the same way as any other West Sussex family.

What will the public support entail?

Many organisations and individuals have come forward to offer help and the county council and its partners are very grateful for the support. We are working to find ways in which people can help the refugees get used to life in West Sussex and the UK and help to ensure they are not isolated (see ‘How can I help?’ tab). As further information becomes available as to how the public can get involved we will post updates to this page.

Will Syrian refugees be able to claim benefits?

Yes. As full humanitarian refugees, they will be able to claim benefits and have the same rights and responsibilities as anyone living in the UK.

How can I help?

How can I help?

How do I donate money or other items to refugees?

The Government advises the best way to help refugees is to donate money to humanitarian organisations or charities who are already working with refugees. The information on the 'Syrian refugees: what you can do to help' web page on the Government's website lists the main charities taking donations. For people offering clothes, bedding, books, toys and other items, the website suggests donating them to charity shops, including those run by the British Red Cross, Save the Children and Oxfam, which accept good quality items. The items themselves are not sent to refugees but the money raised from sales will be directed to helping refugees. More advice on donating funds or items can be found on the 'Syrian refugees: what you can do to help' web page on the Government's website.

How do I offer a property to house refugees?

Properties must be self-contained and preferably be available at Local Housing Allowance rates for a period of at least two years. If you have a property that you are willing to offer to us as part of this scheme please contact in the first instance to discuss next steps.

What if I want to offer a room in my house to a refugee?

At this stage we are only taking families as part of the scheme. The Government has been clear that they must be accommodated in self-contained properties that have their own front door and that are available for a period of at least two years. This overcomes potential difficulties in respect of people not getting on, issues of vulnerability or of the accommodation not being suitable or sustainable. As a result we are not able to accept offers of rooms to house refugees.

Can I help by fostering a Syrian child refugee?

This programme does not include unaccompanied children and as there is a lack of foster care placements in West Sussex we would not be in a position currently to offer any spaces. There is an ongoing need for foster carers in the county for all children who are, for whatever reason, unable to live with their parents or extended families. If you are interested in becoming a foster carer please contact us via the 'Contact us about fostering' web page on the West Sussex County Council website or phone 0800 121 65 08.

Where can I volunteer to help refugees?

The Government is advising people who want to find out how to volunteer to help refugees to contact one of the national charities and organisations working with refugees and asylum seekers across the UK. More information on these organisations is available on the 'Syrian refugees: what you can do to help' web page on the Government's website. If you want to find out about local volunteering opportunities in West Sussex to support refugees, please visit the 'West Sussex Volunteer Network' web page on the Crawley Community and Voluntary Service website.

Where can I find out more?

The 'Syrian refugees: what you can do to help' web page on the Government's website details more information on what individuals and groups can do.

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