This is how many Syrian asylum seekers have settled in Preston

Dozens of refugees have been resettled in Preston under a scheme for those affected by the Syria conflict.

By Mike Hill
Tuesday, 17th December 2019, 11:46 am
Updated Tuesday, 17th December 2019, 11:47 am
Ahmad Mujahed Nayef from the city of Aleppo in Syria, at the Launch of Preston City of Sanctuary in 2017
Ahmad Mujahed Nayef from the city of Aleppo in Syria, at the Launch of Preston City of Sanctuary in 2017

But with the UK's backlog of asylum applications climbing to nearly 50,000 cases, campaigners warn that many of those seeking sanctuary have been left to survive on a pittance while awaiting their fate.

In Preston, 32 people have been resettled under the Vulnerable Person Resettlement Scheme, Home Office statistics show.

Launched in 2014, the scheme grants humanitarian protection, like asylum or other forms of leave to remain, to those who fled the conflict.

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Arrivals were granted refugee status from 2017.

Since both schemes began, nearly 20,000 people – including 1,700 children – have been resettled across the UK under the plans.

Together, they account for nearly three-quarters of people resettled in the UK since 2010, the earliest year for which data is available.

Asylum applications in the UK are now at their highest level since around the time of the migration crisis in Europe.

Figures record 34,354 applications for asylum in the year to September – 22 per cent more than the year before.

The number of these applications approved at an initial decision also rose in the year to September compared to the year before, from 30 per cent to 48 per cent.

But campaigners say it still takes too long to reach this stage, trapping thousands in a legal "limbo".

In September, 48,400 applicants awaited responses on their asylum status – 54 per cent of whom had been waiting more than six months for an initial decision.

The Refugee Council has urged the Government to tackle the backlog "as a matter of urgency".

Andy Hewett, the non-profit's head of advocacy, said: "We are very concerned at the time it is taking incredibly vulnerable people to be given news of their fate.

"Record numbers of people are having to wait for six months or more for even an initial decision on their asylum claim.

"This means thousands of people living in limbo, not being able to move on with their lives and living in desperate worry about what the future may hold."

In Preston, 198 asylum seekers were receiving support for accommodation or basics like food, as of September.

Stephen Hale, chief executive of charity Refugee Action, said asylum-seekers should be given the right to work after six months.

"Unfair rules mean people seeking asylum who are waiting for their claim to be accepted are not allowed to work," he added.

"Instead, they must live in limbo on an allowance of £5.39 a day, stuck in poverty and isolation rather than being able to use their skills."