The British government has been urged to start accepting refugees into the UK under a scheme that would have seen 5,000 people welcomed into the country had it not been delayed in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

After pausing refugee admissions during the pandemic, the government recently announced that it would be resuming its resettlement program.

As a result, government said it is on track to honor its commitment set out five years ago to bring 20,000 refugees into the country by 2020 under Britain’s vulnerable persons resettlement scheme (VPRS).

That scheme, however, was meant to be replaced by a global resettlement scheme that would have seen a further 5,000 people welcomed into the country.

While the government is allowing VPRS to continue, it has said it will only “roll out a new global resettlement scheme as soon as coronavirus circumstances allow”.

“We have to help more people directly from the affected regions and that is exactly what we are planning with the new firm and fair asylum system, which will welcome people through safe and legal routes,” a government spokesperson said in a statement shared with this publication.

Immigration advocacy group Refugee Action has said that promise is not enough, however, urging the government to start accepting refugees into the country under the new program before Christmas.

“Not one person has been welcomed here since April as part of the UK Resettlement Scheme. It’s a broken promise to people fleeing some of the world’s worst violence and persecution,” Stephen Hale, the chief executive of Refugee Action said in a statement shared with this publication.

“The Government is still turning its back on the 5,000 refugees it has committed to resettle this year,” Mr Hale said.

“But there’s still time,” the Refugee Action chief said. “Ministers must open this critical safe and legal route before Christmas, and commit to continue it throughout this Parliament.”

Last week, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) warned that the number of refugees resettled in safe countries will hit a record low in 2020.

According to data from the UNHCR, as of the end September, only 15,425 refugees had been resettled globally, compared with 63,726 in 2019 and 55,680 in 2018.

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