North Yorkshire County Council


Corporate and Partnerships Overview and Scrutiny Committee


6 June 2022


North Yorkshire Refugee Resettlement



1         Purpose


1.1         To provide an update and progress report on refugee resettlement in North Yorkshire relating to the United Kingdom Resettlement Scheme and Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy.


2.     Background

2.1    Global context:

Resettlement is the transfer of refugees from a country of asylum to another country that has agreed to admit them and ultimately grant them permanent residence.  Less than 1% of refugees identified by UNHCR are resettled each year[1] and so overwhelmingly, low-income countries, often with intractable socio-economic problems of their own, continue to disproportionately host the largest percentage of refugees from other nations.

2.2    Many refugees cannot go home because of continued conflict, wars and persecution.  Many also live in life-endangering situations or have needs that cannot be met in the country where they have sought protection.   

2.3    Prior to the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, more than two thirds of all refugees in the world came from just five countries: Syria (6.8 million), Venezuela (4.1 million), Afghanistan (2.6 million), South Sudan (2.3 million) and Myanmar (1.1 million).[2]


2.4    In mid-2021, the UNHCR estimated that the number of people forcibly displaced from their homes (either internally displaced in their own country or having fled to another country) had exceeded 84 million.[3]  Since February 2022, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has led to an estimated eight million Ukrainians internally displaced and a further six million fleeing to neighbouring countries, although about 1.8 million Ukrainians have subsequently returned to Ukraine.[4]  Chiefly because of the war in Ukraine, the number of people forcibly displaced is now estimated to be 100 million across the globe.[5]   Armed conflicts, violence and human rights violations are the leading causes of displacement followed by disasters, extreme weather events and the other effects of climate change.


2.5   North Yorkshire

          Between July 2016 to February 2018 the eight local authorities in North Yorkshire received 238 refugees (50 families) combined under the Home Office’s Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme (VPRS)[6] and Vulnerable Children’s Resettlement Scheme (VCRS)[7].  Those families have now either ended their five-year resettlement support or are in their fifth year of support.


2.6    In 2019, the UK government announced a successor scheme to the VPRS and VCRS scheme called the United Kingdom Resettlement Scheme.  The intention of this was to introduce a single refugee resettlement scheme for the UK to respond to refugee crises anywhere in the globe.  The UKRS also replaced the other ‘legacy’ schemes of Gateway[8] and Mandate[9].  North Yorkshire had not participated in Gateway or Mandate.  


2.7       The UKRS planned to resettle 5,000 refugees in the first year of its existence (2020).  North Yorkshire district councils and the county council responded to the government’s call to participate in the UKRS by agreeing to resettle 200 refugees between 2020 and 2024 on a pro-rata population basis. 


2.8     Resettlement had planned to commence in North Yorkshire in July 2020 but was unable to do so then or for the remainder of 2020 because of the national suspension of resettlement caused by the covid-19 pandemic.  During that time, the conditions for refugees living in their countries of first asylum deteriorated further, particularly in Lebanon due to its political and economic turmoil.  Resettlement recommenced in North Yorkshire in February 2021.


2.9      2021 also saw North Yorkshire playing its part in helping to respond to the largest and fastest human evacuation into the UK at that point in our history - the crisis in Afghanistan caused by the withdrawal of western coalition forces and the subsequent takeover of the country by the Taliban.  Between August 2021 and March 2022, North Yorkshire County Council in partnership with district councils resettled 122 Afghans (25 families) as part of the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy[10] and is preparing to resettle a final family in June 2022.  In addition, the County Council has been involved in co-ordinating the service provision to the Afghan families in two ‘bridging accommodation’ hotels in North Yorkshire whilst they await to be moved to permanent housing.


2.10   In January 2022, the UK government formally launched a more general refugee resettlement scheme for Afghans called the Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme (ACRS) on 6 January 2022.  The government pledged to resettle more than 5,000 people in the first year (although this includes some of the Afghan refugees who have already arrived in the UK from August 2021) and up to 20,000 over the coming years.  The scheme prioritises:

·           those who have assisted the UK efforts in Afghanistan and stood up for values such as democracy, women’s rights, freedom of speech, and rule of law; and

·           vulnerable people, including women and girls at risk, and members of minority groups at risk (including ethnic and religious minorities and LGBT+).[11]


2.11   Due to other pressures and existing refugee resettlement commitments, North Yorkshire local authorities are currently not taking part in the ACRS.  However, the Home Office might in due course count some of the families who arrived to date and have subsequently been resettled in North Yorkshire under that scheme.  There are also no plans locally to resettle additional families under the ARAP scheme, although the Home Office is encouraging all councils to make further offers. 


2.12   Since February 2022, North Yorkshire has experienced the arrival of families from Ukraine, initially in relation to households who arrived through the Ukraine Family Scheme[12] and then through the Homes for Ukraine scheme[13].  Those schemes work in a different way to previous refugee resettlement schemes, so are not covered in further detail in this report.  A separate report on North Yorkshire’s response to the Ukrainian crisis could be submitted to a future committee meeting on request. 


2.13   Separate to the Homes for Ukraine scheme, a community sponsorship scheme has been in existence in the UK since 2016.  This has allowed community groups including charities, faith groups, churches and businesses to resettle refugees in the UK, providing they meet qualifying criteria[14].  A community sponsorship group in Settle was the first in the Yorkshire and Humber region to do so and since then the Home Office has approved two applications in other areas of the county.


2.14    In January 2021, following China’s clampdown of political freedoms in Hong Kong, the UK government opened the Hong Kong British National (Overseas) (BN(O)) route – a UK-wide welcome programme to support the integration of  new arrivals from Hong Kong.  BN(O) status is a form of British nationality created for people from Hong Kong who were born prior to the handover of Hong Kong in 1997 so they could retain ties to the UK after Hong Kong’s handover to China.  Those with BN(O) status and their eligible family members can apply to come to the UK to live, study and work and then after five years in the UK will be able to apply for settlement, followed by British citizenship after a further twelve months.[15]  Local authorities have a limited role in terms of support provision, chiefly in relation to providing English language classes for the adults (if required) and destitution support.  Although over 104,000 people have applied to move to the UK in the year since the visa program was launched, only a handful of families are believed to be living in North Yorkshire through seeking services (e.g. school places).  National feedback to date has been that most arrivals are highly educated with good levels of English.  London and the south-east of England and large cities elsewhere in England are the preferred destinations.  The Hong Kong BN(O) scheme is not covered in further detail in this report due to its minimal impact to date in the county.


3          United Kingdom Resettlement Scheme (UKRS)


3.1    General Overview – North Yorkshire:

Planned UKRS arrivals into North Yorkshire continued throughout 2021 and into 2022 at quarterly intervals.  The covid-19 self-isolation arrangements throughout most of that time added another layer of complexity.  However, close partnership working across the international, regional and local resettlement agencies ensured that families were resettled safely with no adverse impacts upon public health. 


3.2    As of May 2022, North Yorkshire has resettled 89 persons (22 families) under the scheme across three districts.  Preparations are underway to receive further UKRS families in the summer (40 people, 11 families) and in the autumn 2022 (numbers to be determined).   In line with our participation in the SVP and VCRS schemes, the resettlement of UKRS families is on a phased approach.  The focus is on resettling families across two to three districts at a time before moving on to other districts to complete their agreed allocations.  This helps us to manage resources more efficiently because new families within a given district arrive at a similar time to each other.  Hambleton and Richmondshire districts have completed their agreed allocations and Harrogate district will complete its allocation by July 2022. 






    Table 1: Arrivals:  February 2021 to April 2022 (and summer 2022)


UKRS target number

Number of persons resettled

Number of persons accepted for summer 2022


































3.3    Not surprisingly, the principal nationality of the UKRS families we have accepted remains Syrian.  Syria remains an enormous humanitarian and displacement crisis with no solution in sight due to the nature of civil war; Syrians continue to account for the world’s largest refugee population at nearly 6.8 million[16].  


3.4    Over time, due to the global nature of the UKRS it is likely that we will see a wider range of nationalities resettled in North Yorkshire through the scheme.  We have for example recently resettled Afghan Hazara refugees registered under the UKRS.  Even prior to the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in August 2021, Afghans made up one of the largest refugee populations worldwide and particular ethnic groups living in Afghanistan such as the Hazara have historically experienced human rights violations.  Afghanistan is also now facing one of the worst humanitarian crises in history.[17]  


3.5    Wherever possible we try to ensure that newer arrivals have a similar cultural background and language to earlier arrivals within a given district (typically Arabic speakers).  However even where this has not been the case there have been examples of existing refugee families helping to support new arrivals.  This new dynamic of support, has not only allowed the new arrivals to feel more settled but in turn has led the existing families to reflect on how far they themselves have progressed since arriving in the UK.  Some of the earlier arrivals have become official volunteers trained by the Refugee Council. 


3.6    Refugees arriving in the UK from 5 November 2021 onwards under the UKRS scheme are automatically granted indefinite leave to remain in the UK (as were the Afghans resettled under the ARAP/ACRS schemes arriving in the UK from September 2021 onwards).  Earlier arrivals were granted temporary leave to remain for five years.  They then had to apply for indefinite leave to remain at the end of that period.  However, UKRS refugees who arrived in the UK between 1 March and 4 November 2021 are now eligible to apply for indefinite leave to remain status (as are also the Afghan families who arrived on the ARAP/ACRS schemes prior to September 2021).  


3.7    The period of resettlement support for VPRS/VCRS/UKRS refugees has been for five years.  From 2022/23, though, the period of support is anticipated to be reduced to three years, which would then be in line with the support period provided to Afghans resettled through the ARAP and ACRS schemes.  We await a UKRS 2022/23 funding instruction from the Home Office in that regard.


3.8    As with the VPRS and VCRS ‘legacy’ schemes and the ARAP and ACRS schemes, the UKRS scheme is fully-funded by the UK government.


4          Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy  (ARAP)


4.1    General Overview – North Yorkshire:

The ARAP scheme remains open and small numbers of people qualifying under the scheme are still arriving into the UK.  However, since the end of Operation Pitting[18] it is now extremely difficult for those qualifying on the scheme to get to the UK.  Many of those who are at risk of persecution by the Taliban, including those eligible to come to the UK under the ARAP scheme, are in hiding in Afghanistan.  This includes some of the relatives, friends and former work colleagues of families resettled in North Yorkshire.  Afghans who manage to cross the border into Pakistan face an uncertain future and risk being sent back to Afghanistan.[19]  Alternatively, they might be faced with waiting for long periods in Pakistan often connected with not having Pakistan immigration documents.  In some circumstances, because a family has not had a valid visa or entry stamp for Pakistan they have been unable to secure permission to leave Pakistan to travel to the UK.  


4.2    As with earlier refugee resettlement schemes, North Yorkshire sought to resettle its ‘fair share’ of Afghan ARAP persons based upon its population size.  However planning for the Afghan resettlement was more complicated and required a more urgent response than it had for the UKRS and VPRS/VCRS resettlement schemes.  It has also involved providing support to Afghan families in temporary hotel accommodation.


4.3    The emergency evacuation into the UK from mid-August meant that initial government estimates of between 3,000 to 4,000 arrivals were inaccurate.  Later, the Foreign Secretary announced in September 2021 that 17,000 people had been evacuated from Afghanistan between 1 April 2022 and 1 September 2022.  An estimated 7,000 of those appeared to be eligible for the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy.  There was no breakdown of the remaining 10,000, although it also included British citizens in Afghanistan and their family members.  Some of the non-British citizens are also Afghans who are not eligible for ARAP, but may instead be resettled under the Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme.[20]   The most recent estimates are that about 18,000 people were evacuated from Afghanistan by the UK government last summer, including more than 6,000 British nationals and 9,000 people under the ARAP scheme.[21]


4.4      Initially, when we estimated that North Yorkshire’s ‘fair share’ of the national total was in the region of 40 people, the focus was on finding properties in Hambleton, Harrogate and Selby districts.  Having all districts participating in resettling a relatively small number of people would have resulted in a scattergun approach and increased the risk of social isolation amongst the families resettled.


4.5      Hambleton had recently finished its resettlement of UKRS refugees and so resources were already in place there to support new arrivals.  Harrogate and Selby were about to commence their UKRS resettlement.  In most instances, housing was able to be found at short notice because in the case of Harrogate and Selby districts the same properties had already been identified to accommodate UKRS families.  Inevitably, that meant that the pace of the UKRS resettlement slowed.


4.6      When it became known that the number of Afghans arriving under Operation Pitting would be significantly higher, Craven and Richmondshire districts were also brought on board due to properties being identified in those districts, including MOD-owned properties.



ARAP target number

Number of persons resettled




















4.7      A new element of resettlement arising from Operation Pitting has been in relation to providing support to Afghan families in two ‘bridging accommodation’ hotels in the county.  The hotels are accommodating families waiting for permanent housing elsewhere in the UK. 


4.8      It was the Home Office’s decision to use the hotels but local partner agencies led by the County Council were required to put in place services to support the families, and at short notice. Local voluntary sector groups also helped co-ordinate much needed donations of clothing and other basic items.   


4.9      New families continue to arrive at both hotels but at a considerably slower pace and in smaller numbers than was the case in August 2021.  One of the hotels in North Yorkshire will close at the end of July 2022 as part of the Home Office’s rationalisation of the hotel estate.  To date, over 520 people have been supported across the two hotels.  About 12,000 Afghans remain in bridging accommodation in the UK. 


4.10   The rate of departures has been slow for a number of reasons.  The Home Office and the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) have recently been working to implement much needed improvements to the process of matching the arrivals to suitable properties.  More information is now gathered on the families at an earlier stage in the matching process (such as family size, make-up, health issues, mobility issues, family links to the UK, level of English, and whether large families would be willing to be split across two or more properties).  A key component of this policy change is the development of a new end-to-end process for those families/ individuals who refuse two appropriate offers of settled accommodation.  


4.11   North Yorkshire County Council was one of the first local authorities to put in place a process to contact families in the bridging accommodation hotels once we became aware that they had been matched to a property in the county.  This followed on from several families turning down offers of property in the county in September and October 2021 and it becoming evident to us that improvements in the matching process were required.  During these discussions, we provided information to the families about what they could expect from us in terms of service provision and the local area.  This substantially reduced the number of families rejecting properties that we were offering.  Other local authorities are now increasingly following this practice and to help facilitate this, the Home Office and DLUHC have put a longer timeframe in place between the date when families are first informed about the move and the actual move date.


5       UKRS and Afghan resettlement service provision


5.1   Integration Support:

UKRS and Afghan families resettled into permanent housing in North Yorkshire continue to have the benefit of a Refugee Council caseworker to assist with day-to-day issues.  The support is particularly intensive in the first year of a family’s resettlement.  For subsequent years, the focus is on building up the independence of the adults to encourage them to do more things for themselves so that they do not experience a ‘cliff edge’ of support once their resettlement period has ended.  Weekly face-to-face drop-ins are now back up and running in those districts where there have been new arrivals from 2021.  Briefings for families on a range of topics relating to life in the UK are being arranged.


5.2   English Classes:

The programme of English language classes (ESOL) for the adults is currently in a transition phase as we begin to move back into the classroom environment after providing mostly online sessions for the past two years due to the constraints of the covid-19 pandemic. 


5.3    In the coming weeks, learning hours will increase back up to pre-pandemic levels for those adults who have arrived from 2021 onwards.  The County Council’s Adult Learning and Skills Service provides the classes but we encourage the young adults to attend their nearest further education college so that they can pursue vocational-related training.  It also has the benefit of being able to expand their social circle.


5.4     In some parts of the county volunteers run conversational classes either in groups or on a one-to-one basis.  This helps supplement the County Council’s formal provision and provides invaluable befriending support to the families and wider connections in their town.


5.5      English as an Additional Language (EAL) support in schools

A small team of staff based in the Children and Young People’s Services Directorate provide EAL support to schools and facilitate communications between parents and their children’s schools.  This includes amongst other aspects, providing EAL guidance and resources for teachers, providing briefings and providing an ongoing point of contact for advice and support for teachers and parents.  The number of families and schools that the EAL team support has increased substantially due to the Afghan arrivals in 2021 and the arrival of children from Ukraine in 2022. 


5.6    Employment

Progress in getting the UKRS and Afghan adults into employment continues. Jobs range from professional to semi or low-skilled.  Local employers have continued to express interest in supporting the new Afghan families and this has created a positive effect for earlier refugee arrivals in the county.  There have also been more enquiries relating to Ukrainian refugees and these are being logged for future discussions.  The issues for the current arrivals to date in getting into employment continue to be the skills match and, for many of the UKRS refugees, their levels of English.  However, work is being done with local employers to try to overcome these barriers.


5.7    Utilising the Home Office grant, the County Council funds 1.5FTE member of staff in the HR Resourcing Solutions team to provide employment support to the working age adults.  This also involves the provision of relevant training to validate existing skills and to provide additional skills and training.  A full report is contained in Appendix 1.


5.8    Health & Social Care Services

 All family members are registered with a local GP practice and provided with a medical health assessment when they first arrive in North Yorkshire.  This also includes the Afghan families in the bridging accommodation hotels.  NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) are reimbursed by the Home Office for primary and secondary health care costs for the first 12 months after a family has arrived in the UK. 


5.9    North Yorkshire County Council can claim back funding from the Home Office for ‘exceptional costs’ relating to an individual’s social care support and for the initial costs of special needs provision.


5.10  A number of the adults and children have accessed counselling support through the regional children and families’ specialist mental health service provided by Solace.  This provision allows clients to be fast-tracked for support from trained counsellors (with interpreters) experienced in supporting survivors of persecution and exile.  Some of the Afghan families we have resettled witnessed distressing scenes at Kabul Airport.  Some lost relatives in Afghanistan or became separated from them (including parents and children) during the evacuation.  Many of the families we have resettled are anxious about the wellbeing of their relatives and friends that they have left behind.  A number of the UKRS adults that we have resettled are also survivors of violence and torture.


5.11  Volunteer Support

There are refugee support groups in most of the districts in North Yorkshire.  They provide additional invaluable support including befriending support to the families.  Some of the volunteers are Refugee Council trained volunteers assisted by a Refugee Council Volunteer Co-ordinator. 


5.12  Volunteers have helped families feel more settled in their local area and helped them to develop wider links in their local area.  Some volunteers for instance have signposted families to clubs and activities, including most recently cricket clubs for some of the Afghan arrivals.  Volunteers have also provided conversational English sessions and organised trips and activities.  


5.13  Wrap-around support provided in the bridging accommodation hotel:

The range of support includes: 

·           Supporting the families to get their children into local schools as quickly as possible and ahead of government guidance requesting that school-aged children should be in school no later than eight weeks following arrival in the bridging accommodation.  The County Council’s English as an Additional Language Team are providing ongoing support and guidance to schools.   

·           Wrap-around support provided in both hotels by the Refugee Council.  This centres upon helping families with a range of general enquiries and putting them in contact with relevant agencies.  Before the Refugee Council staff were appointed, our Early Help teams visited the hotels to respond to a range of enquiries and concerns that the families had. 

·           Local Job Centre staff have arranged the Universal Credit Claims and provided general advice on employment and training in the UK. 

·           Mental health support has been provided through a tailored approach of group sessions on a range of topics and where required followed up with 1-2-1 support.  However, there is a need for this to continue as and when new arrivals come to the hotel.

·           North Yorkshire Youth and North Yorkshire Sport are providing a range of activities for the children and young people including at weekends and on an evening during the week.   During the summer holiday period this will be increased to three sessions each week in the remaining hotel.   

·           English language classes for the adults provided by our Adult Learning and Skills Service.

·           Home to school/college transport where required i.e. in accordance with the County Council’s normal policy in relation to distance criteria and the age of the child. 

6      Key Implications


Local Member: None. 


Financial:  There are no additional financial implications to North Yorkshire County Council arising directly from this report.  The Home Office funds the UKRS and Afghan refugee resettlement schemes in North Yorkshire.


Human Resources:  There are no additional human resources implications to North Yorkshire County Council arising directly from this report.  North Yorkshire County Council employs staff on the refugee resettlement programme but they are funded through the Home Office grant.


Legal: There are no legal implications to North Yorkshire County Council arising directly from this report.  The UKRS and Afghan refugee resettlement schemes are voluntary schemes.  However, participating local authorities are required to meet specific obligations set out in the funding instruction to local authorities from the Home Office. 


Equalities: None.


Environmental Impacts/Benefits including Climate Change Impact Assessment:

No Impact.


 6      Report Recommendation:


6.1    That the Corporate and Partnerships Overview and Scrutiny Committee notes the progress of the UKRS and Afghan refugee resettlement programme in North Yorkshire.


Neil Irving

Assistant Director - Policy, Partnerships and Communities

North Yorkshire County Council


Author of report:

Jonathan Spencer

Project Manager - Resettlement

24 May 2022



Appendix 1:  North Yorkshire County Council Refugee Employability Project


Background documents:  None


[2] UNHCR Mid-Year Trends 2021

[3] UNHCR Mid-Year Trends 2021

[4] How many Ukrainians have fled their homes and where have the gone?  BBC, 20 May 2022

[5] UNHCR:  Record 100 million people forcibly displaced worldwide, UN News, 22 May 2022

[6] In September 2015, as part of the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme (VPRS), Prime Minister David Cameron announced that the UK would accept up to 20,000 Syrian refugees who had fled to neighbouring countries because of the current crisis and who were particularly vulnerable.

[7] In April 2016, the UK government announced that it would be resettling an additional 3,000 refugees under the Vulnerable Children’s Resettlement Scheme (VCRS).  The scheme was open to refugees regardless of their nationality but specifically children at risk and their families from the Middle East and North Africa region.

[8] The Gateway programme was launched in 2004 and aimed to resettle 750 individuals a year, generally those in protracted refugee situations.

[9] Launched in 1995 to resettle refugees with a close family member living in the UK.

[10] The Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP) was launched on 1 April 2021 to resettle interpreters and other staff who worked for the UK in Afghanistan.  The scheme offers relocation or other assistance to former Locally Employed Staff (LES) in Afghanistan to reflect the changing situation in Afghanistan. 

[11] Afghan citizens resettlement scheme

[12] The Ukraine Family Scheme allows applicants to join family members, or extend their stay, in the UK

[13] Homes for Ukraine allows UK based sponsors to offer accommodation to Ukrainians in their own homes or other property. 


[15] Media factsheet: Hong Kong BN(O)

[16] UNHCR Mid-Year Trends 2021

[17] Afghanistan emergency, UNHCR 

[18] Operation Pitting was a British military operation to evacuate British nationals and eligible Afghans from Afghanistan following the 2021 Taliban offensive.

[19] Afghans Flee to Pakistan. An Uncertain Future Awaits.  New York Times, 1 November 2021

[20] Afghan refugees in the UK. The Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford – 21 October 2021

[21] Afghanistan: How many people has the UK resettled, BBC 6 May 2022