THE BLOG

UK Must Do More to Help Refugees Find Safety

24/03/2014 16:58 GMT | Updated 24/05/2014 10:59 BST

I can't imagine my children not sleeping in real beds, struggling for food and being permanently, yet provisionally, exiled in a foreign land. For hundreds of thousands of parents around the world though, this is a daily reality.

These people are refugees; people who have fled the brutality and terror of war and conflicts in their home countries, desperate for safety from violence, torture, rape and death. The majority seek safety in neighbouring lands; in fact 80% of the world's refugees are hosted by developing countries.

However, when refugees reach safety, they often find themselves confined to refugee camps for decades. Some children are even born there. It is extremely unlikely that they will ever be able to return home.

The experience of refugees living in camps around the world undoubtedly varies, but the people the Refugee Council encounters tell us it can be like hell on earth - a place of no hope, no future and often, not enough food.

As one woman told us: "In the refugee camp you don't have a plan for your life. You're living on refugee rations from the UN and you live from day to day."

This month, the UK is celebrating 10 years of resettling refugees under the UN's Gateway Protection Programme. Refugee resettlement involves the selection and transfer of refugees from a country in which they have sought protection to a third country which has agreed to admit them as refugees.

The first group of refugees to be placed for resettlement were a group of Liberians, who arrived in the UK in March 2004. Since then, the UK has offered places to people fleeing states well known for conflict or poor human rights records, including Somalia, Myanmar, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The impact of a resettlement place can't be overstated: it is some people's only chance to rebuild their lives in safety.

The need is great. For 2014 alone, UNHCR estimates that 691,000 refugees across the world were in need of resettlement. Currently EU Member States offer just 5,500 resettlement places each year, with Sweden offering the most places: 1,900. This is compared to the 70,000 places offered by the United States, 7,100 places by Canada and 20,000 by Australia in 2012.

Unfortunately, the UK accepts only up to 750 resettled refugees every year.

The Refugee Council is now calling on the UK Government to do more to offer safety to refugees living in protracted refugee situations around the world.

Britain has a proud tradition of protecting refugees and in the last decade the UK Government has transformed thousands of lives through its resettlement programme. But we can and should do more.

Resettlement is a vital protection tool for refugees whose lives and liberty are at risk; a long term solution for refugees and an expression of solidarity with developing countries who host the majority of the world's refugees.

We must do all we can to help. For some children, a resettlement place in the UK would give them their first ever night's sleep on a mattresses in a real bed; access to running water and simply, the hope of a better future.