Mayor to bring Londoners together to support Syrian refugees

13 July 2017
  • City Hall secures Home Office funding for new community sponsorship scheme and a co-ordinated approach to resettlement of Syrian refugees

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, today launched the first city-wide scheme to support Syrian refugees to rebuild their lives in London and thrive in their local community.

Through the Mayor’s new resettlement initiative, City Hall will work with local authorities, communities, businesses and organisations to coordinate offers of support and expertise from across the capital to help Syrian refugees make London their home. These offers include homes, job and education opportunities, orientation support and English language classes.

Sadiq Khan has welcomed the Government’s commitment to bring 20,000 Syrian refugees to the UK by 2020, and alongside Matthew Ryder, his Deputy Mayor for Social Integration, has made it clear that a city as prosperous as London should play its part in helping to relieve the crisis.

London boroughs have already resettled more than 300 Syrian refugees, but the lack of homes which are affordable for new arrivals has been a significant challenge to the capital’s participation in the national resettlement scheme. Until now, there has been no city-wide approach in place to help with the resettlement of refugees.

A new regional coordinator, based at City Hall, will work with local councils to build on the good work they are already doing, by unlocking support from across the city to help resettle Syrian refugees, supporting them to access the services they need to rebuild their lives and thrive in their communities. The initiative will also bring together offers of accommodation from private landlords, with rent set at the Local Housing Allowance Rate, as well as offers of sponsorship to help cover the costs of renting private accommodation.

Organisations and communities across the capital want to play their part in helping some of the most vulnerable refugees fleeing war and persecution in Syria, including universities, volunteering centres, local businesses and landlords, English-language teachers, religious organisations and many more.

The Mayor has also paid tribute to the lives lost in the Grenfell Tower fire including Mohammed Alhajali, who was a Syrian refugee, as well as other refugees who lost their home in the tragedy. He has pledged to do all he can to help them re-establish their lives in the capital. 

Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said:  “London has a proud history of providing refuge to those seeking sanctuary and it is only right that a city as prosperous as ours offers shelter to people fleeing persecution, and plainly in fear for their lives. It is not enough to just welcome Syrian refugees to our capital – we all need to work together to help them become part of London life, contributing to the communities in which they live. When this happens, we all benefit.

“It is incredible to see so many organisations and individuals willing to help, from teachers, landlords and volunteers to universities and philanthropists – it shows just how open and outward-looking our great city is. This new initiative will bring all of this goodwill and expertise together to overcome the challenges we face in welcoming more Syrian refugees, and supporting them to become Londoners and truly part of our city.” 

Cllr Claire Kober, Chair of London Councils, said: “I know we have all been appalled by the suffering we’ve seen on our TV screens from Syria, and councils across the capital have been working hard to help those vulnerable people fleeing violence to find refuge and a home in our city. Londoners have been incredibly generous, offering up donations and volunteering their services. But this has not been an easy road, and this new initiative will help smooth the way for a more co-ordinated approach so boroughs can continue to welcome Syrian refugees and support them to rebuild their lives and thrive in our communities.”

Brandon Lewis, Minister for Immigration said: “I am delighted that this Home Office funding will help Syrian refugees rebuild their lives in London. The money will help vulnerable people coming to the capital to integrate into their communities and become more self-sufficient, bringing benefits to the individuals as well as their local area.

“I will continue to work with the Mayor of London, London boroughs and community groups to ensure that refugees resettled in London are getting the support that they need.”

This initiative is one of the first steps in the Mayor’s wider work to help all Londoners feel integrated into life in the city. His Deputy Mayor for Social Integration, Social Mobility and Community Engagement, Matthew Ryder, is working with grassroots community organisations across the capital to identify the key barriers to community cohesion and integration. Matthew is also working with local government, voluntary and community sector organisations and communities themselves to develop a strategy, including new ways of measuring social integration.

 

City Hall and London Councils have also commissioned Learning and Work Institute (L&W) to map formal and informal provision of English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) in London, and undertake work to identify the language learning needs of resettled Syrian refugees in London. Published today, the report aims to support London boroughs to ensure resettled refugees are able to access appropriate learning opportunities. This will also contribute to the wider development of ESOL policy in London, in particular in relation to the anticipated devolution of the Adult Education Budget.

Deputy Mayor for Social Integration, Social Mobility and Community Engagement, Matthew Ryder, said:“Across the city, there are organisations, charities, volunteers and many others who want to do their bit to help Syrian refugees fleeing their homes in fear of war and persecution. Volunteers have been trained as community mentors, universities and schools have offered places, student groups have offered conversation classes and businesses have offered work placements and support on finding work to new arrivals. 

“This new model will bring together these services and expertise, which will help refugees to make the most of the opportunity our city has to offer in terms of jobs, education and quality of life. There are also significant challenges we need to overcome and this can only be achieved through partnership working. By supporting refugees to settle into life in London, we can build integrated communities where refugees feel like they have a home and can contribute to society. I look forward to working with London’s boroughs and communities to make this a success.”

Zrinka Bralo, Chief Executive of Migrants Organise and Chair of the Refugees Welcome Board, said:“Over the past two years, Londoners have done their best to welcome Syrian refugees. The Refugee Welcome groups that support Syrians through the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme showed how volunteers, civil society and local authorities can work together, but as we are doing this for the first time, there have been some challenges too.

“The most urgent challenge is to find accommodation as refugees cannot come, and are stuck in refugee camps, until accommodation is secured. We all know that accommodation in London is expensive, and we need to work together to find resources to ensure London continues to be a place of welcome. The Mayor’s support will add to that positive, welcoming spirit of London. We hope this new initiative   will help cross-fertilise the learning, enhance our efforts to work together, and encourage Londoners with big hearts, as well as business and local councils that have not signed up yet, to join in and help make a London a home for people who desperately need protection.”

Neil Jameson, Executive Director of Citizens UK said:“Citizens UK looks forward to working closely with the Mayor’s office to promote the Community Sponsorship of Refugees among registered charities across the capital, helping them become accredited sponsors of a Syrian family. The UK has welcomed 6,000 Syrian refugees since November 2015, while Canadian Civil Society has welcomed 30,000 – through Community Sponsorship.

‘It’s great that the Mayor’s office will also be encouraging and supporting Community Sponsorship, and offering advice and resources for local charities across the capital to accredit and welcome more Syrian families to our neighbourhoods.”

ENDS

Notes to editors

  1. Twenty-one boroughs[i] have passed motions to welcome up to 50 Syrian refugees, but have been unable to resettle that number owing to the challenges relating to affordable accommodation. Hammersmith and Fulham Refugees Welcome have produced a film (with Miranda Hart, Lord Dubs and Harriet Walter) that reference this problem and call for landlords to help
  2. There are Refugee Welcome committees offering support to newly resettled families in at least 23[ii] London boroughs
  3. The initiative will support refugees coming to London through the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme and Community Sponsorship Scheme. The Home Office is providing grant funding for a regional co-ordinator position based at City Hall, following a successful funding bid by City Hall with support from London Councils. 
  4. The following video from Good Faith Partnership highlights the benefits of community sponsorship for all the community: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AFM-Dot5-Z0&feature=youtu.be
  5. City Hall is currently in the process of recruiting a co-ordinator based at City Hall to work with local authorities and other partners to take this work forward. This will also include providing guidance and support to participating boroughs, including through the establishment of a regular officer forum.
  6. Community organisations supporting the resettlement of Syrian refugees will be responsible for securing housing that meets their needs at a price they can cover – either because the rent will be paid by any benefits they receive to help with housing costs, or because sponsors top up the amount households receive.
  7. The report on ESOL provision in London can be viewed here: https://www.london.gov.uk/what-we-do/communities/migrants-and-refugees/english-language-training-why-it-important