More than a tenth of the 20,000 Syrians the Government has pledged to resettle have been brought to Britain so far, with Scotland taking the greatest share of refugees.
Previous prime minister David Cameron announced plans to step up a resettlement initiative in September after a public outcry over the fate of those driven to attempt the perilous crossing of the Mediterranean.
The Government pledged to give refuge to 20,000 Syrians from the region around the war-torn country by 2020.
Home Office figures published yesterday show that between the start of October last year and the end of June, 2,646 people have arrived under the Syrian vulnerable persons resettlement scheme. Of those
Scotland has taken 862 – more than a third of the total number who have arrived
The North East of England had the next highest number, with 302, followed by the West Midlands, where 276 people were located.
The figures show that in the final three months of last year, 1,085 were brought to the UK. The number then dipped to 517 in the first quarter of this year before more than doubling to 1,044 in the three months from April.
Refugee Council head of advocacy Dr Lisa Doyle said: “There is absolutely no reason why a country as welcoming and wealthy as Britain would be unable to fulfil its pledge to resettle 20,000 Syrian refugees by 2020.
“After all, it’s only the equivalent of each constituency welcoming one family a year.”
Steve Symonds, Amnesty International UK’s refugee programme director, said: “The target of resettling 20,000 Syrian refugees by 2020 has always been too low and too slow.”
Those arriving under the programme have been resettled across 118 local authorities – up from 71 in the six months to March. Coventry has taken the highest number, with 125, followed by Gateshead (107) and Edinburgh (83).
The data show there were 273 council areas where no Syrians had been resettled under the scheme in the nine months from October.
Earlier this month a Commons committee report warned of a “two-tier system” over participation in the initiative, which is voluntary for town halls.
Other figures showed that asylum applications in the UK from main applicants increased by 41% to 36,465 in the year to the end of June – the highest number for more than a decade.
And there were 3,472 asylum applications from unaccompanied children and teenagers – a 54% rise compared to the previous year.
David Simmonds, chairman of the Local Government Association’s asylum, refugee and migration task group, said: “We are confident that there will be sufficient places that will support the Government’s pledge to resettle 20,000 people by 2020, and the focus must now be on ensuring families are matched to the right placements and that they arrive safely and are well supported.”