Taking in 20,000 Syrian refugees 'will cost the UK more than £500m'

It will cost more than half a billion pounds to resettle the government's pledged 20,000 Syrian refugees by 2020, it emerged today.

The Vulnerable Persons Relocation (VPR) scheme is estimated to cost £598 million, according to Syrian refugee minister Richard Harrington.

Harrington revealed the figures in a written response to a parliamentary question from Jim Cunningham, Labour MP for Coventry, according to the BBC.

The first year's VPR scheme will be paid for by the UK's overseas aid budget. It is not clear where the rest of the money will come from.

Harrington detailed the budget for the duration of the scheme.

It will cost £99m in 2016-17, £129m in 2017-18, £149m in 2018-19, and £83m in 2020-2021, he said.

Keith Vaz, the Home Affairs Committee chairman, has queried the figures, branding them "huge".

"As the Home Office refuses to provide regular updates on the numbers being resettled, or where they are being placed, there is an unacceptable lack of transparency in the use of these significant funds," he said.

The budget has also allocated £129m to help local authorities with costs for the duration of the VPR scheme. To date, 55 local authorities have signed up.

The UK has so far resettled 1,194 Syrians under the scheme, including 605 under-18s.

In October 2015, a collective of bishops wrote a letter to David Cameron urging him to show a "meaningful and substantial response" to the refugee crisis by raising the number of refugees resettled in the UK over the next five years to 50,000.