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Syria conflict: Are refugees prepared for life in the UK? – BBC News

Migrants are seen behind a fence as they arrive at the refugee center in the town of Presevo, after walking from Macedonia to Serbia.Image copyright
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The first of 20,000 Syrian refugees taken in by the UK are due to arrive in the coming days. But what will life be like for them when they get here?

In an office-turned classroom in Bradford, Syrian refugees are locked in concentration.

Today’s lecture is about the basics. They are learning English, a language most have never studied before.

They are also undergoing something of a crash course in how to live in the UK, which includes how to register with a GP, how to get medication from a chemist’s and how to get children into school.

There’s a lot to learn.

‘Build a future’

But the men and the women, with their bright headscarves, who have escaped from the horrors of the Syrian war, are determined to take it all in, impatient to start their new lives in this country.

Suha is here with her husband Abdul Aziz, both 24, and their one-year-old baby daughter Arerm. For her this is a chance to start again, to make a future for her baby, who was born a refugee.

“Yes, of course we are happy,” she says.

“Now she is guaranteed the opportunity to study and to build a future. That is so important. We can all see the situation back in Syria and even in Jordan, where things are getting worse.”

The couple, who met while studying at university in the Syrian city of Homs, have been separated from other family members since coming to the UK.

Suha says she has left behind two sisters who are currently still in Homs and battling against a “very dangerous” situation.

Meanwhile Abdul believes two of his relatives have made it to Australia, which has pledged to take in 12,000 Syrian refugees.

But both admit they have “lost people” in the conflict, and did not want to elaborate further.

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The family leave behind scenes of devastation in their home city of Homs

However, the family are among the lucky ones.

Just 216 Syrians have so far come to Britain under the government’s Vulnerable People Relocation Scheme (VPRS), which was launched in January 2014.

That is about to change, with the prime minister’s announcement that 20,000 refugees would be brought from camps in countries bordering Syria into the UK by 2020.

The process starts in the refugee camps and frontier towns on Syria’s borders with Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey.

Officials working for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) will conduct interviews to identify the most vulnerable people meeting the requirements, who will be invited to Britain.

To qualify, a person must either be a survivor of torture or violence, a woman or child at risk, or in need of medical care. There may also be further interviews by Home Office staff to address any security concerns.

Before anyone can travel to the UK, a local authority must agree to take them in.

Facts about the Vulnerable People Relocation Scheme

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  • Under the scheme all of the “paperwork” is done before the refugees arrive. From day one they get housing, have access to medical care and education and they can work
  • Refugees taken into the UK via this scheme will be granted five years’ humanitarian protection which includes access to public funds, the labour market and the possibility of family reunion, if a person was split up from their partner or child when leaving their country
  • After those five years they can apply to settle in the UK
  • Mr Cameron said the scheme would be funded for the first 12 months by the government.
  • Before the scheme was introduced nearly 5,000 Syrians were granted asylum to the UK in the last four years

But the issue of who pays for the relocation scheme may become a contentious point.

Syria conflict: Are refugees prepared for life in the UK? – BBC News

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