Refugee resettlement programme

Update 21 August 2020: Due to COVID-19 related restrictions on movements both overseas and in the UK, it is not currently possible to undertake any resettlement activity. As a result, there have been no refugees resettled in the UK since 12 March 2020, following the outbreak of COVID-19. All refugee resettlement arrivals to the UK planned prior to the current crisis have now been cancelled.

Resettlement arrivals are due to restart as soon as conditions allow and will be dependent on several factors, including:

  • restarting of flights from refugee-hosting countries,
  • lifting of restrictions imposed by the governments of those countries, and in the UK,
  • the ability of international partners (UNHCR and IOM) to operate,
  • reopening of the UK’s visa application centres.

Further information is available from the Home Office.


The UK government’s Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme focusses on people who have fled Syria because of the current conflict, sought refuge in the countries around Syria and are registered with the UNHCR. The UNHCR identifies individuals and families who are particularly vulnerable for medical or other reasons. The UK government carries out security screening before deciding whether to accept a family. Most of these families are Syrian however the scheme is open to all nationalities who had to flee Syria because of the conflict.

The Vulnerable Childrens Resettlement Scheme focuses on resettling vulnerable children and their families from the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region. This is an additional commitment from the government that aims to resettle up to 3000 children and their families across the UK by 2020. This scheme is open to refugees of all nationalities and is not restricted to those displaced by the Syrian conflict. The UNHCR identifies children and adolescents at risk for whom resettlement is in their best interest and carries out the necessary security screening before taking the decision to resettle the child and their family/care givers. This scheme is also open to unaccompanied children.

If the UK government agrees to resettle a refugee family, it gives them a humanitarian visa for five years. This gives family members the right to work and to use public services.

Community sponsorship was set up by the UK Government in 2016 in response to communities and faith leaders who said that they wanted to do more. It’s a unique programme enabling you to welcome a refugee family into your local area and support them as they rebuild their lives.

Councils volunteer to participate in the programme and can control the rate at which families arrive. In Devon, councils are aiming to house families in private rented properties that the landlord has offered or agreed to rent to refugee families. Refugee families do not get any preferential treatment for housing.

In Devon, the city and district councils are responsible for housing. Each council has taken its own decision about how many families it is aiming to house. This is our progress at August 2020:

AreaFamilies Resettled: Local AuthorityFamilies Resettled: Community SponsorshipPeople Resettled
East Devon3118
Exeter12155
Mid Devon313
North Devon315
South Hams623
Teignbridge6131
Torridge212
West Devon522
Total358189

Devon has formed a partnership to help families to settle in and lead independent, safe and productive lives. This includes professionals from the NHS, education and social care who make sure that local services will be able to meet refugees’ needs. Community and voluntary organisations are taking the lead in helping families get to know the local area and UK culture, make contact with faith and support groups, learn English and where possible get into work.

Refugee families have been through great hardship and settling in a new country is a huge challenge. Families are entitled to privacy, so councils will not make individual announcements about the timing and locations of resettlement.

In June 2019, the Government announced an ongoing global resettlement scheme for the most vulnerable refugees. The UK plans to resettle in the region of 5,000 of the world’s most vulnerable refugees in the first year of the new scheme, once the Vulnerable Person’s Resettlement Scheme concludes. As before Councils can volunteer to participate in the new scheme and control the rate at which families arrive.

Contact email address: refugeesupport@devon.gov.uk