Friday, March 24, 2017

Syrian refugees get access to higher education after STAR campaign

The government has announced that from this summer Syrians brought to the UK will be granted refugee status following a campaign initiated by STAR (Student Action for Refugees).image

This means they will be given previously denied access to university places and other rights such as overseas travel documents.

They will not only have access to higher education but also the ability to more easily visit loved ones in other European countries.

Up until now resettled Syrians escaping the six year old conflict in their country were given a special form of leave to remain. This is known as Humanitarian Protection – a status which stopped short of the rights of people with full refugee status.

One of the consequences of this meant that resettled Syrians faced waiting three years before they were eligible for student finance. In short that put university out of reach for the vast majority of these people.

Close to 6000 Syrian refugees have been resettled to the UK since the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme (VPRS) began in March 2014 – with a quota of 20,000 places.

Under the Vulnerable Children at Risk Scheme (VCRS) the government also committed itself to resettling up to 3,000 refugees from the Middle East and North Africa – with a focus on children.

The move – announced in a written statement by the government yesterday (22nd March 2017) – comes after pressure from STAR and other agencies including Refugee Council and NUS.

STAR’s Chief Executive, Emma Williams, said: “This is something we have been calling for over the past two years and we welcome this step by the government.

“It’s great that our important campaign has been recognised and we thank the many MPs, Peers and a coalition of partners who have been there in support.

“As a result of this change in policy many people will directly benefit, as will wider society as we see Syrian refugees achieving and thriving here.”

STAR groups across the country will continue to campaign for equal rights to higher education for all those who have fled persecution. Our groups are working hard on this up and down the country by running our Equal Access Campaign. If you want to change your university’s policies for people who have fled persecution get in touch with our Equal Access Coordinator.

In the written statement the Home Secretary – Amber Rudd – said ministers recognised that humanitarian protection did not provide access to particular benefits and had decided to grant refugee status instead.

The statement read: “At the beginning of the scheme, granting Humanitarian Protection allowed us to quickly assist and resettle the most vulnerable. As we have previously said, we have kept the policy under active review.

“We have listened to those who have raised concerns about the consequences, for those we resettle to the UK, of granting Humanitarian Protection rather than Refugee Leave.

“We have also taken the time to work through the policy and practical implementation issues in detail.

“The decision to grant Humanitarian Protection was the right one at that time. However while Humanitarian Protection recognises the need an individual has for international protection recognises the need an individual has for international protection, it does not carry the same entitlements as refugee status, in particular, access to particular benefits.

“We think it is right to change the policy and now is the right time to make this change.”

The statement said that from 1 July 2017, the Government would be granting those admitted under the VPRS and the VCRS refugee status and five years’ limited leave.

Those who are already resettled under these programmes will be given the opportunity to make a request to change their status from Humanitarian Protection to refugee status.

Posted by STAR team on 24/03/2017 at 01:07 PM