UK
23/09/2015 18:48 BST | Updated 24/09/2015 09:59 BST

What Happens To Syrian Refugees When They Arrive In The UK?

The first of 20,000 Syrian refugees arrived in Britain yesterday, and have begun the intensive process of being settled into their new homes.

Prime Minister David Cameron has committed to resettling 20,000 people from Syria over the next five years, after being pressured to help some of the thousands migrating from the war-torn country to seek a better life in Europe.

From the day they arrive, refugees enter a "very well planned, carefully managed process" that will set them up with the knowledge and help they need to live in the UK, according to the Refugee Council.

This week's new arrivals - who are all classed as vulnerable - will have been welcomed at the airport by a team who will take them to their new homes.

syrian refugees

Syrian children in a classroom at a refugee camp in Jordan

They will have come to Britain through the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement (VPR) scheme, an existing initiative that Cameron extended with pledge to take in more people.

Most of them have not come directly from Syria, but from refugee camps in countries such as Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon, which border Syria and have taken on huge numbers of people fleeing the brutal conflict over the last four years.

SEE ALSO:

They could be classed as vulnerable because they are a child, unwell, or a victim of a crime. So far, the government's VPR scheme hasn't resettled any unaccompanied children, but rather children with adults who can look after them.

The Home Office confirmed to The Huffington Post UK that a personalised plan to help them settle into Britain begins straight away, including lessons on British culture and how to build a life in the country.

It did not comment on claims in a BBC report saying refugees will have trips to the job centre and colleges for those ready to go back to work or study.

It's not clear which councils will be hosting the Syrians, but the majority of refugees from the country since March 2014 have gone to Glasgow, Coventry and Bradford.

Local authorities will find them somewhere to live, usually in private rented accommodation, and not in people’s homes, hostels or B&Bs. They can claim benefits, work and have access to education and health services.

The BBC reported that school places were already ready for their children, as well as a GP for all refugees, but the Home Office would not confirm this.

syrian refugees

Syrian refugees at the Austrian border near Hungary

It is possible that the Syrians who arrived yesterday were already set to come before the PM's announcement. The UK has been accepting smaller numbers of refugees, and making arrangements for resettlement takes some time. "This is a very well planned, carefully managed process. It doesn’t happen overnight," a spokesperson for the Refugee Council.

The VPR is modelled on the UK’s 'Gateway Protection Programme' scheme, which has been in place for more than a decade.

In the Gateway programme, housing and school placements for refugees are confirmed three to four weeks before they arrive, as well as pre-arrival registration with health services nearby. The different organisations working with the refugees in the UK are invited to a presentation about the culture and history of the refugees two weeks before they arrive.

Under the Gateway scheme, refugees become tenants of rented accommodation and are immediately entitled to financial support to help them pay their rent.

"Locating housing for resettled refugees is the most crucial aspect of the resettlement", the Gateway says, and settling people near to other refugee communities as well as places or worship and shops selling foods that are linked to their country, is considered in the process.

These people will already have been approved as refugees, so have the right to settle in the UK for five years.

It costs nothing to apply as a refugee, and when they have arrived they can also apply to be reunited with family they were separated from when they were forced to leave their country.

After five years, they can apply to settle permanently.

25,771 people applied for asylum in the UK in the year until June 2015, Home Office figures show. Out of them, 2,204 were from Syria and 87% of Syrian requests for asylum were granted.

A Home Office spokeswoman said yesterday: "We are working closely with the UNHCR and local authorities to make sure we are ready to welcome more Syrians who desperately need our assistance.

"Today, a number of people have arrived in the UK as part of the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement scheme. As the Prime Minister announced earlier this month, we will resettle 20,000 Syrians over the course of this Parliament through this scheme."

A new 'Refugee Welcome Board' has been set up to help settle refugees in the UK. It is made up of religious leaders, housing experts and fostering experts, and funded by over £200,000 of crowd-funded money.

It plans to help refugees integrate into communities by introducing them to locals and helping councils find accommodation.

It will also hand out welcome packs with 'essentials for life in Britain' such as children's pyjamas and books, toiletries, a warm blanket and information about the local area.