Gateway Protection Programme
The Gateway Protection Programme is a scheme operated by the UK Border Agency in partnership with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), offering a legal route for a quota of UNHCR-identified refugees to settle in the United Kingdom. The programme was established in March 2004 with a quota of 500 refugees per year, later increased to 750, but the actual number of refugees resettled in each year has been fewer than the quota permitted. Liberian, Congolese, Sudanese, Burmese, Ethiopian, Mauritanian and Iraqi refugees have been resettled under the programme. The programme enjoys cross-party political support in the British parliament. Evaluations of the programme have praised it as having a positive impact on the reception from local communities received by refugees, but have also noted the difficulties those refugees have faced in securing employment.
The programme is the UK's "quota refugee" resettlement scheme. Refugees designated as particularly vulnerable by the UNHCR are assessed for eligibility under the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees by the Home Office. if they meet the eligibility criteria they are then brought to the UK and granted indefinite leave to remain. The International Organization for Migration helps facilitate pre-departure medical screening, counselling, dossier preparation, transport and immediate arrival assistance. Once in the UK, refugees are entered into a 12-month support programme which aims to aid their integration. The programme involves local authorities and NGOs including the British Red Cross, the International Rescue Committee, Migrant Helpline, Refugee Action, the Refugee Arrivals Project, the Refugee Council, Scottish Refugee Council and Refugee Support. These organisations have formed the Resettlement Inter-Agency Partnership in order to pool their resources.
The Gateway Protection Programme is not the first British refugee resettlement programme. Other, informal, resettlement programmes include the Mandate Refugee Scheme, and the UK also participates in the Ten or More Plan. Refugees must have close ties to the UK to qualify for the former, which is for so-called "mandate" refugees who are granted refugee status by UNHCR. The Ten or More Plan, established by UNHCR in 1973 and administered in the UK by the British Red Cross, is for refugees requiring medical attention not available in their current location. During the 1990s, 2,620 refugees were settled in the UK through these two programmes. In 2003, the UK's Ten or More Plan had a resettlement goal of 10 people and the Mandate Refugee Scheme 300. Refugees have also been resettled through specific programmes following emergencies. For example, 42,000 Ugandan Asians expelled from Uganda during 1972–74, 22,500 Vietnamese during 1979–92, over 2,500 Bosnians in the 1990s, and over 4,000 Kosovars in 1999.
A new resettlement programme was proposed by the then British Home Secretary, David Blunkett in October 2001, having been hinted at by the previous Home Secretary, Jack Straw, in his 'Lisbon Speech' to the European Conference on Asylum in June 2000. The legal basis for the programme's funding was established by Section 59 of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002, which was passed by the House of Commons by 362 votes to 74 in June 2002 and by the House of Lords, at the ninth attempt (following concern about the introduction of measures allowing for the detention of asylum seekers in rural areas), in November 2002.
The Gateway Protection Programme was subsequently established in March 2004. Initially, the programme quota was set at 500 per year. The British government has faced criticism from academics and practitioners over the small number of refugees it has resettled in comparison with other developed states. For example, in 2001 the countries with the largest quota schemes were the United States (80,000 refugees), Canada (11,000) and Australia (10,000). Initially, David Blunkett had intended to raise the quota to 1,000 in the second year of the programme's operation, but local councils' reluctance to participate in the scheme meant that it was slow to take off. It has been argued that their reluctance showed that hostile attitudes towards asylum seekers had carried over to affect the most genuinely needy refugees. The quota remained at 500 per year until the 2008/09 financial year, when it was increased to 750 refugees per year. The number of refugees resettled under the scheme is small in comparison to the number of asylum seekers offered protection in the UK. For example, in 2009, 24,285 initial decisions on asylum claims were made by the Home Office, of which 4,190 (17 per cent) determined the applicant to be a refugee and granted them asylum, 95 (fewer than 1 per cent) granted humanitarian protection, 2,460 (10 per cent) granted discretionary leave and the remaining 17,545 applications (72 per cent) were refused. Worldwide, there were 42 million forcibly displaced people at the end of 2008, 15.2 million of whom were refugees. Nonetheless, existence of the programme has maintained cross-party support in Parliament since its inception.
Refugees resettled under the programme
The number of refugees resettled under the programme has been consistently under the quota. Refugees resettled have included Liberians from Guinea and Sierra Leone, Congolese from Uganda and Zambia, Sudanese from Uganda, Burmese from Thailand, Ethiopians from Kenya, and Mauritanians from Senegal. Provision was made for 1,000 Iraqi refugees to be resettled in the UK between 1 April 2008 and the end of March 2010. In 2008, 236 Iraqis were resettled and as of 18 May, a further 212 had been resettled in 2009. However, in May 2009 the programme was shut down for those Iraqis resettling due to having worked in support of British occupying forces and therefore at risk for reprisals. This decision was criticised as premature and "mean-spirited" by some members of Parliament.
As of March 2009[update], out of the 434 local authorities in the UK, 15 were participating in the programme. The first refugees resettled under the programme were housed in Sheffield, which was the first city to join the scheme. Others have been housed in cities and towns including Hull, Norwich, Bolton, Bury, Rochdale, Motherwell, Brighton and Hove, and the Manchester area including Tameside.
In 2007, North Lanarkshire Council won the "Creating Integrated Communities" category in the UK Housing Awards for its involvement in the Gateway Protection Programme. In April 2007, Bolton Museum held an exhibition of photos of Sudanese refugees resettled in the town under the programme. A film, titled Moving to Mars has been made about two ethnic Karen families resettled from Burma to Sheffield under the Gateway Protection Programme. The film opened the Sheffield International Documentary Festival in November 2009 and was aired on the television channel More4 on 2 February 2010.
Resettlement has been presented as a means of the UK fulfilling its obligations towards displaced people in the context of hostile public attitudes towards asylum seekers. Research has shown that members of the British public are generally well disposed to providing protection to genuine refugees, but are sceptical about the validity of asylum seekers' claims. A report published in 2005 states that "some participating agencies have been reluctant to pursue a proactive media strategy due to local political considerations and issues relating to the dispersal of asylum seekers". However, in February 2006, the then Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department Andy Burnham, when asked about how the programme fitted in with community cohesion strategies, stated in the House of Commons that:
"The early evidence from areas in which authorities have participated in the programme shows that it has been successful in challenging some of the attacks on the notion of political asylum that we have heard in recent years. In Bolton and Sheffield in particular, the towns have rallied around the individuals who have come to them. The programme has been a positive experience for the receiving community and, of course, for the vulnerable individuals who have benefited from the protection that those towns have offered".
A report into the experience of refugees resettled in Brighton and Hove under the scheme between October 2006 and October 2007 was published by the Sussex Centre for Migration Research at the University of Sussex in December 2007. The report found that the refugees had struggled to gain employment and English language skills.
In February 2009, the Home Office published a report evaluating the effectiveness of the Gateway Protection Programme. The research it was based upon focused on refugees' integration into British society in the 18 months following their resettlement. The research found that refugees showed signs of integration, including the formation of social bonds through community groups and places of worship. The report noted that low employment rates and slow progress with acquiring English language skills were particular concerns. Younger refugees and children had made the most progress.
The Home Office released a promotional video in October 2009 that highlighted the success of the programme in resettling 15 Congolese families into Norwich in 2006. That city has had a record of success with the programme, with new families being supported by ones previously resettled there.
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