The Council of Ministers will review the Isle of Man’s position in relation to the United Kingdom’s resettlement scheme for refugees fleeing the conflict in Syria.
Chief Minister Howard Quayle MHK made the commitment this week as he accepted a petition presented by representatives of local and international charities.
The petition, signed by about 1,000 people, calls on the Isle of Man Government to reconsider taking in ‘a fair share’ of refugees through the UK’s Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme. Campaigners say this would mean up to 25 Syrian refugees coming to live in the Island by 2020.
As a British Crown Dependency, the Isle of Man cannot act on its own and must adhere to UK policy on refugees. The UK Government has established the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme to help those in greatest need who cannot be supported effectively in the region in which they live.
The initial scope of the programme included the elderly, the disabled and victims of sexual violence and torture. This was later expanded to recognise the needs of children, in particular unaccompanied children.
To date, almost 4,500 Syrian refugees have been accepted into the UK under the scheme.
The previous Isle of Man Government determined that the Island could not provide the level of support and specialist help needed to offer a home for these vulnerable people.
The Isle of Man has instead continued to distribute funds to organisations dealing with the humanitarian crisis. Since the outbreak of the conflict in Syria, the Island has donated more than £500,000 through the International Development Committee of the Council of Ministers.
The Chief Minister has said the Council will revisit the issue, but stressed that nothing has changed in terms of the Island’s constitutional position and the need to adhere to UK policy.
Mr Quayle commented:
‘The Isle of Man is a responsible, caring and compassionate place and there is a clear desire within our community to help Syrian people escaping conflict and persecution in their homeland. This is reflected in the number of people who have signed the petition. However, it is not simply a case of opening our doors to accept a relatively small number of refugees. There are many factors to consider and our focus must remain on providing support in the most effective way possible.’
‘Our current approach is to direct funds to established appeals operated by respected and experienced charities that already have people on the ground. However, I think it is appropriate for the new Council of Ministers to review the direction provided by the previous Government, and we will look again at what is a complex and highly emotive issue.’