UNHCR urges next British government to 'do the right thing' by refugees


Britain's next government should "do the right thing" for refugees by increasing resettlement quotas, reuniting more refugees with family in the UK and cutting the number of detained asylum seekers, the United Nations refugee agency said on Monday.

Ahead of Britain's general election on 8 June, the UNHCR representative to the UK, Gonzalo Vargas Llosa, urged the next government to do more to help refugees escaping conflicts.

"Britain has a rich history of welcoming those forced to flee and UNHCR urges the next government to do the right thing and ensure a fair and equal treatment for all refugees," Llosa wrote in an editorial for The Times newspaper on Monday. Llosa said the UK should resettle 10,000 refugees a year from war-torn regions, instead of the current pledge to receive 20,000 Syrians and 3,000 vulnerable child migrants by 2020.

UNHCR said 1.2 million refugees are in need of resettlement globally from host countries like Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, Kenya and Tanzania.

"Resettlement not only benefits needy refugees. It also helps to relieve a small part of the burden on those developing countries which have for years been sheltering millions of refugees," Llosa said.

In 2016, 65.3 million people were uprooted from their homes around the world and among them, nearly 21.3 million refugees, the UNHCR says.

He said refugees were also suffering unnecessarily from Britain's "restrictive and complex" family reunification process, which only lets children under 18 reunite with their parents. Refugee children in the UK are also unable to sponsor their parents or siblings, according to the British Red Cross.

Llosa called for Britain to cut the number of asylum seekers in detention and to integrate them into the community under supervision.

There were about 123,000 refugees and 45,870 asylum seekers in the UK by the end of 2015, according to UNHCR.    (Thomson Reuters Foundation)

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