Thank you for contacting me recently about Government support for Syrian refugees. I fully appreciate your concern with this issue, as do my Ministerial colleagues, with the UK Government continuing to be at the forefront of the international response to the humanitarian crisis in Syria.

 

The UK is prioritising its support and aid efforts where the need is greatest. Only a small percentage of Syrians displaced from Syria are seeking asylum in Europe; the vast majority remain in Syria and neighbouring countries. Those that remain in the immediate region around Syria are more likely to be particularly vulnerable and this is where the focus remains. The UK is the second largest bilateral donor of humanitarian aid to the Syrian crisis with £1.12 billion already pledged. Some £105 million of this funding will help Syrians who are still in Syria.

 

In addition to this financial support, we have granted protection to almost 5,000 Syrians since the crisis began and, as you aware, the Prime Minister has proposed that Britain should resettle up to 20,000 Syrian refugees over the next five years. These refugees will come straight from the camps in the Middle East to discourage refugees from taking the perilous journey across the Mediterranean.

 

The UK will continue to build on the considerable practical assistance it is already providing to the EU member states experiencing particular pressures, and help them to build functioning asylum systems with the resilience to withstand increased pressures.

 

The Government has:

  • Provided over 1,000 expert working days to countries such as Greece and Italy-more than any other member state.

  • Donated £14.5 million to provide aid in countries that refugees and migrants are leaving from and transiting through.

  • Provided £2.5 million to support systems for better understanding and predicting trends in movement, which will help alleviate the pressures that force people to move and allow for a better, more rapid humanitarian response.

 

Thousands of lives have been saved in the Mediterranean through the deployment of various Royal Navy vessels. The UK has sent HMS Enterprise, HMS Richmond and VOS Grace, having previously deployed the flagship HMS Bulwark, which rescued 6,700 migrants.

 

Two Border Force vessels, HMC Protector and HMC Seeker, have returned to the UK after playing an important part in the search and rescue of migrants in the Mediterranean as part of Frontex's Operation Triton between May and September 2015. The length of the vessels' deployment was agreed between Border Force, Frontex (the European Agency for the Management of Operational Cooperation at the External Borders of the Member States of the European Union) and the host member state, Italy.

 

The Government is considering options for providing further support to Frontex operations in the Mediterranean over the winter months and stands ready to provide assistance if there is an operational requirement to do so. Any further deployments of vessels from Border Force or other UK organisations will be determined in conjunction with Frontex and European partners.

 

Border Force also continues to supply Frontex with officers to assist with the debriefing and screening of migrants that arrive in the Mediterranean. Three officers are currently deployed to the Greek islands and three to Italy to undertake this work.

 

The UK also continues to play an important role in supporting search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean and in tackling the criminal gangs that are responsible for illegal attempts to move large numbers of migrants across the Mediterranean. The ongoing deployment of the Royal Navy vessels, HMS Enterprise and HMS Richmond, to the Mediterranean is integral to this work.

 

With regards to refugees from Africa, the Home Secretary has been clear that the EU should work to establish safe landing sites in North Africa, such as the proposed multi-purpose centre in Niger, as well as a centre in East Africa.

 

The Government has provided approximately £3 million for countries in Africa, including North Africa, for assistance, protection and counselling on options and risks around travel, along with support for people to return home where required.

 

In addition, £2 million has been donated for the International Committee of the Red Cross who will provide support for vulnerable people including refugees and Internally Displaced Persons in Libya.

 

This will include: food, clean water and other essential items for tens of thousands of people; family tracing; and training for first aid instructors, doctors and surgeons. The UK will also provide support to the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) to help effectively manage humanitarian assistance in Libya.

 

I hope this helps to reassure you of the Government's continuing commitment to help refugees and thank you again for taking the trouble to contact me.