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UK takes in 4,000 refugees in first year of expanded Syrian scheme

More than 4,000 refugees arrived in Britain in the first year of the Government's expanded Syrian resettlement scheme.

Home Office figures show that 4,162 people were resettled under the initiative in the year to the end of September.

Last year Ministers committed to take in 20,000 Syrians driven from the war-torn country by 2020 following a public outcry over the fate of those attempting the perilous journey across the Mediterranean.

Statistics show arrivals under initiative were at the highest quarterly level so far in the three months to September, with 1,516 people resettled around the country.

Half (49%) of those resettled under the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme were under 18 years old (2,059), and around the same proportion (48%) were female (1,989).

Those brought to Britain have been resettled across 175 different local authorities in the year from October 2015 - up from 118 in the first nine months.

Coventry has received the highest number of refugees out of local authority areas so far, with 161.

Regionally, Scotland has taken in the most Syrian refugees under the scheme, with 1,147 - more than a quarter of the total.

Earlier this year a Commons committee report warned of a "two tier system" in relation to the programme, which is voluntary for town halls, after figures showed some had taken in dozens while others had received none.

Spending watchdogs have estimated the total cost of the scheme could top £1.7billion.

In an assessment published in September the National Audit Office also warned that a shortage of housing and school places could pose a threat to the chances of meeting the pledge.

Stephen Hale, chief executive of Refugee Action, said: "It's great to see this pledge is becoming a reality as communities all over the country are choosing to welcome refugees to their areas.

"But the appalling events unfolding in Aleppo are a brutal reminder that there is no end in sight to the war in Syria or the immense suffering of children and civilians caught up in the violence."

He added: " This is the world's worst refugee crisis in more than 60 years. We have a moral and a legal duty to offer sanctuary to more refugees from Syria and other war-torn, unsafe countries."

David Simmonds, chairman of the Local Government Association's Asylum, Refugee and Migration Task Group, said: "Councils have an excellent track record in welcoming asylum-seeking and refugee children and their families for many years and continue to work hard to support the Syrian resettlement scheme, alongside all the other schemes in current operation.

"They have no say over when people will be allowed to enter the UK, but stand ready to help when they do."

Home Secretary Amber Rudd said: "The support of local authorities, devolved administrations, and the tremendous goodwill of the British people, has been paramount in helping us resettle so many vulnerable people who have fled conflict.

"We are very much on track to resettle 20,000 Syrian refugees by the end of this Parliament.

"The humanitarian crisis in Syria is unprecedented which is why we decided to undertake one of the largest resettlement schemes in the UK's history.

"The hard work will continue throughout this Parliament as we provide those who have been traumatised and damaged by war, with a safe and secure environment and the chance to rebuild their lives."

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