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Refugees FAQs

What is the Syrian Resettlement Programme?

The Syrian Vulnerable Resettlement Programme is a resettlement route where the UK Government works closely with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The programme helps those who are in the greatest need who cannot be supported effectively in the region by giving them protection and support in the UK – the programme prioritises people requiring urgent medical treatment, survivors of torture and violence, and women and children at risk. The terms of the programme grant five years' humanitarian protection, which enables individuals to access the full range of welfare services, housing and the employment market immediately without restriction.

How are they selected?

The refugees arriving in the UK under the programme will have been through a thorough two-stage vetting process involving the UNHCR and Home Office. This includes the taking of biometric information, documentary evidence and interviews. 

When potential cases are submitted by the UNHCR for consideration for resettlement they are screened and considered by the Home Office for suitability for entry to the UK. This includes the taking of further biometric data and the Home Office retains the right to reject individuals on security, war crimes or other grounds, including where there is insufficient information to undertake effective screening.

Do local authorities choose who comes to their area?

UNCHR refers cases to the Home Office. The Home Office checks if they meet eligibility criteria and carry out medical and security checks. Cases are then passed to local authorities, who are asked to accept or reject cases. Local authorities have to consider if they have the infrastructure and support networks needed to ensure the appropriate care and integration of the refugees. On accepting a case, the local authority then needs to arrange housing, school places etc.

How many people will be coming under the Programme?

The UK Government has agreed to take 20,000 refugees over five years, with the Scottish Government agreeing to accept 2,000 over the same period. 

How many refugees will Orkney be taking?

We committed to taking two families. This is in line with Orkney’s share of the 2,000 refugees coming to Scotland on a population basis.

Why has it taken so long to commit?

Unlike other areas, Orkney has not been involved in a refugee resettlement programme before. It has taken time to make the arrangements to ensure we were in a position to welcome and properly support the families when they arrived.

Are there any unaccompanied children?

No. The children who arrived in Orkney were accompanied by their families.

How long will refugees stay here?

Under the UK Government scheme, they will be granted five years humanitarian protection after which they can decide to either return home if it is safe or apply to settle here under the usual Home Office rules.

Will refugees be given priority for council housing? 

No. Orkney Islands Council has made it clear that it will not divert any property which would otherwise have been allocated to households on the waiting list to refugees arriving in Orkney. The houses that have been allocated were formerly used as student accommodation and were unoccupied. Consequently, there is no detrimental impact on the council housing waiting list.

Are refugees the same as asylum seekers and migrants?

No, they all have different meanings.

  • A refugee is someone who is fleeing armed conflict or persecution. According to Article 1, 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees a refugee is a person who: ‘owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country.’ A refugee is entitled to the same social and economic rights as any UK citizen and has full access to medical treatment, education, housing and employment.’
  • An asylum seeker is a person who has applied for asylum and is waiting for a decision as to whether or not they are a refugee. They have asked a Government for refugee status and are waiting to hear the outcome of their application.
  • A migrant is someone who chooses to move to another country mainly to improve their life by finding work or, in some cases, for education, family or other reasons rather than because of a direct threat of persecution or death. Migrants can choose to go home, unlike refugees who are unable to return home safely. If migrants do choose to go home, they will continue to receive the protection of their government. 

How do you know the people who came here are genuine refugees and not economic migrants or asylum seekers?

We only accepted refugees through the Syrian Resettlement Programme. In order for someone to be eligible for the programme they must meet the criteria which makes them a genuine refugee.

I would like to help - what can I do?

The best thing people can do is make the new arrivals feel welcome and accepted in our community. 

You can also look at the main refugees page where we will ask if we want donations.