There are an estimated 60 million people throughout the world who have been forced to flee their homes. This has created more than 15 million refugees worldwide.
Developing countries host over 80% of displaced people. There are an estimated 117,234 refugees living in the UK, which is only 0.18% per cent of the total UK population. (Source: Red Cross)
Refugee: Someone who is outside their home country because they have suffered (or feared) persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, or political opinion; because they are a member of a persecuted social category of persons; or because they are fleeing a war.
In the UK, a person is officially a refugee when they have their claim for asylum accepted by the government.
Internally Displaced Person: Someone who is forced to flee his or her home but who remains within his or her country’s borders.
Asylum seeker: Someone who has left their country of origin and formally applied for asylum in another country but whose application has not yet been concluded.
Putting Cheltenham into Perspective
Syria is now the world’s largest source country of refugees, as well as internally displaced people. Because of the ongoing civil war in Syria, the UK Government announced that it will accept and resettle 20,000 refugees over the course of this current parliament.
Cheltenham (which has a total population of around 107,000) is currently home to eleven Syrian refugee families. A few more families expected to arrive in the next few years, including some families from elsewhere in the world, but this is dependent on houses becoming available for them.
GARAS (Gloucestershire Action for Refugees and Asylum Seekers), who have been supporting refugees and asylum seekers since 1999, employ resettlement officers throughout the Gloucestershire county to support the Syrian families settling into their new communities. They help to familiarise them with the locality and assist their access to healthcare, education and employment.
Cheltenham Welcomes Refugees supports the work of GARAS and the local council by preparing homes, putting on community building events, educating people in Cheltenham, and supporting refugee families in various ways.
Between 2,000-3,000 refugees have settled in Gloucestershire over the last 10 years, mainly from Eritrea, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and Sudan. They make up less than a half of one percent of the county’s total population.
The Government Syrian resettlement scheme in Gloucestershire means that 100 Syrian families will come over the next 5 years.
The National Asylum Support Service (NASS), a section of the UK Border Agency, provides board and housing for 150 asylum seekers in Gloucestershire (separate to the Syrian resettlement scheme).
NASS also supports approximately 300 unaccompanied asylum seeking children (UASC). More than 40 of the children are still in foster care and another 40+ are still in different areas of care (such as children’s homes or hostels).
Approximately 25 unaccompanied asylum seeking children have arrived in Gloucestershire in the last few months.