Leeds has been asked to be the regional headquarters of a £25m-£30m, eight-year Syrian refugee contract which will see 1,250 people from the civil war-torn country resettled in Yorkshire in the next two to three years.
As the UK Government’s commitment to take in 20,000 refugees over the current Parliament is relaunched this month, the city council will be instrumental in helping distribute vital funding through Migration Yorkshire, the official organisation co-ordinating the response for 14 local authorities in the Yorkshire and Humber region.
It equates to between £20,000 and £24,000 per individual refugee, which will cover the costs of settlement as part of an eight-year overall plan. Leeds itself is accepting around 225 refugees from Syria, with around 50 having already arrived.
A new internal report to senior officials says Leeds City Council has been asked by the Home Office and its neighbour councils to act as the “regional project management and accountable body”. It is hoped that having one point of contact will “give more flexibility in matching cases to suitable areas...improving potential long term integration of SVPs (Syrian Vulnerable Persons] to local communities”.
The report explains that an estimated £25m to £30m of Home Office funding - made up of various grants - will be channelled through the council for Migration Yorkshire to distribute.
Each refugee will be supported for five years from date of arrival, meaning the full programme will be eight years long.
The refugee contract pledges “intensive support” for families over the first year, with councils having discretion on how they use the cash for the remaining four years.
The council report acknowledges there are “ongoing challenges” around funding, and specifically ESOL English language provision,
It stresses the Government has achieved its target of bringing 1,000 Syrian refugees into the country before Christmas, and is now “look[ing] at lessons learned, before continuing the process” from this month.
The report adds: “Planning in Leeds will take account of lessons learned to date and will look at planning and co-ordinating the arrival of 175 people (around 50 families) in Leeds.”
David Brown, head of Migration Yorkshire, will be overseeing the resettlement of hundreds of Syrian refugees in 14 cities across the region.
His organisation will be co-ordinating grants to agencies and grassroots groups helping families settle in.
Yorkshire and the Humber will take in 1,250 refugees in the next two to three years, which is in addition to 150 who have arrived already, most of those being children.
Added to the additional small numbers some councils have agreed to voluntarily;take, the total Yorkshire and Humber number is about 1,500.
Mr Brown said: “This is the biggest humanitarian crisis the world has seen since World War Two, and we are proud that we’re taking our fair share of the Syrian refugees that the Government has agreed to resettle in the UK.
“Of course the roughly 1,500 coming into Yorkshire is only a fraction of the millions of Syrians living in refugee camps, and only a fraction of the five million people living in Yorkshire, but it is still important that we are doing our bit to help.
“We are delighted to be at the stage of finalising our plans with the Government for resettling people over the next two or three years.
“It has taken a lot of planning but the message from our region is clear - that we will work together and that Yorkshire is ready.
“The generosity of the people of Yorkshire is making a real difference.”