Syrian Refugees In Northern Ireland

The civil war in Syria, which began in 2011, has forced millions of Syrians to flee their homes. In mid 2017 it was estimated that 6.3 million people were displaced within Syria, with a further 5.1 million taking refuge in neighbouring countries. A small number have fled further, with some coming to Europe.

The Syrian Vulnerable Persons Relocation (VPR) Scheme 

The UK Government agreed in 2015 to receive up to 20,000 Syrian refugees directly from refugee camps in countries neighbouring Syria over a period of 5 years. They are being brought through the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme, and are being settled across the UK, including in Northern Ireland. By the end of 2016 over 4,000 people had arrived in the UK.  

Refugees having been arriving in Northern Ireland in groups since 2015. The 24th Group to arrive, in December 2019, brought the total to 1726 people who have been welcomed here since the scheme began. The final total for Northern Ireland will not be more than 2,000 people over five years. The latest briefing on the scheme can be accessed here

The consortium tasked with providing support to the Syrian refugees has greatly appreciated the contributions of goods and financial  support given by individuals and groups.  (A list of suggested items for donation has been provided by the consortium – see also below). EMBRACE provided funding for an initial fuel supply for refugees placed in housing, some toiletries and baby items.

To help provide information on the Syrian refugees coming to Northern Ireland within the context of the broader scope of asylum locally EMBRACE has prepared Refugees in Northern Ireland – Some Basic Facts. Hard copies of this booklet are available free on request from our office.

The VPR Scheme does not cover settlement of any of the Syrian refugees travelling through Europe.  Syrians who arrive here by their own means can apply for asylum, but there are very few asylum seekers from Syria in Northern Ireland, or Syrian refugees who have come through the asylum process.  It is thought that 14 Syrians were seeking asylum locally in the period Apr – Jun 2015.

The Process

  • People come directly from refugee camps in countries around Syria, as part of the UK Government’s Syrian Vulnerable Persons Relocation (SVPR) Scheme. It does not involve the relocation of refugees who have arrived in other EU countries.
  • The scheme is based on need and is for vulnerable refugees such as survivors of torture and violence, and women and children at risk or in need of medical care. Close family can accompany them.
  • They will have been registered as refugees by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and put forward for consideration because the UNHCR does not think there is a future for them in their present situations.
  • UK officials will then do security checks and needs assessments.
  • The Syrian refugees who come here through the SVPR scheme will not need to claim asylum.
  • Central government will contribute towards the costs of the arrivals in terms of accommodation and integration support, health and education costs for the first year from arrival.
  • Housing will be sourced through private landlords, so no offers of housing in people’s homes or holiday homes will be required in the short term.
  • Individuals will be given 5-years humanitarian protection in the UK, with permission to work and full access to healthcare and social welfare from the time of arrival.

For more details about the scheme read the House of Commons Library briefing paper on Syrian Refugees and the UK.


Bryson Intercultural co-ordinates the consortium responsible for the welcome and integration of Syrian refugees being brought to Northern Ireland through the SVPR scheme and can receive offers of help from the public. For more information visit the Bryson Intercultural website.

Derry Strabane Civic Action for Refugees has prepared a helpful guide for local people outlining ways of responding. The booklet, Help Them Live Again can be accessed at

Evangelical Alliance has listed 5 ways the Church can respond to the Refugee Crisis.

Good Practice
There is good practice guidance on respecting the rights of Syrian refugee families to privacy and family life in the Safeguarding Guidance document prepared by Bryson Intercultural and at the end of the Department for Communities briefing document.

The Law Centre NI and the NI Human Rights Commission have published a  guide explaining the rights of SVPR refugees in N. Ireland.