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Syrian refugees to be properly recognised as refugees at last


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In a Ministerial Statement made today, Home Secretary Amber Rudd has announced that Syrian refugees resettled to the UK will formally be recognised as refugees rather than been granted the lesser status of “humanitarian protection”:

The decision to grant Humanitarian Protection was the right one at that time. However, while Humanitarian Protection recognises the need an individual has for international protection, it does not carry the same entitlements as refugee status, in particular, access to particular benefits, swifter access to student support for Higher Education and the same travel documents as those granted refugee status. Furthermore, we recognise that this policy is at odds with what happens to those Syrians who claim asylum in the UK and who are granted refugee status.

We think it is right to change the policy and now is the right time to make this change. Therefore, with effect from 1 July 2017, we will be granting those admitted under the VPRS and the VCRS refugee status and five years’ limited leave. Those who have been resettled under these programmes before this date will be given the opportunity to make a request to change their status from Humanitarian Protection to refugee status. We will publish more information on how individuals can do this in due course.

This is considerably overdue. It was always obvious that almost any Syrian national would meet the criteria for refugee status (as previously discussed here: Are refugees from Syria really refugees in law?).

Unfortunately, the announcement also comes shortly after the Home Office decided to downgrade refugee status to be more like humanitarian protection by introducing a “safe return review” at the end of the initial five year grant of protection.

Details of how to upgrade status without having to make a formal claim for asylum will be posted as soon as we hear more.

Source: Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme and Vulnerable Children’s Resettlement Scheme – Arrangements:Written statement – HLWS553 – UK Parliament

Interested in refugee law? You might like Colin's book, imaginatively called "Refugee Law" and published by Bristol University Press.

Communicating important legal concepts in an approachable way, this is an essential guide for students, lawyers and non-specialists alike.

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Colin Yeo

Immigration and asylum barrister, blogger, writer and consultant at Garden Court Chambers in London and founder of the Free Movement immigration law website.