News Daily Spot: David Cameron says UK will take thousands more Syrian refugees

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David Cameron says UK will take thousands more Syrian refugees

Source: TheGuardian
David Cameron has bowed to overwhelming domestic and international pressure and announced that Britain will accept thousands more Syrian refugees.
Downing Street declined to put an exact figure on the numbers of refugees who will be flown to Britain from refugee camps in countries bordering Syria.
The prime minister said Britain would act with “our head and our heart” in response to the “crisis and suffering” of the refugees.
The announcement, made in Lisbon after Cameron held talks with his Portuguese counterpart, Pedro Passos Coelho, followed a steady buildup of pressure from politicians, churches, council leaders and community groups, urging the government to show greater humanity. 
It was further increased by the outpouring of grief over the death of Aylan Kurdi, the three-year-old Syrian boy whose body was washed up on a Turkish beach.
Cameron said: “We have already accepted around 5,000 Syrians and we have introduced a specific resettlement scheme, alongside those we already have, to help those Syrian refugees particularly at risk. As I said earlier this week, we will accept thousands more under these existing schemes and we keep them under review.

“And given the scale of the crisis and the suffering of the people, today I can announce that we will do more – providing resettlement for thousands more Syrian refugees.

“Britain will act with its head and its heart providing refuge for those in need while working on a long-term solution to the crisis. As I said earlier in the week, that means bringing an end to the conflicts that are driving so many to flee, including the bloodbath that has engulfed Syria.”

The prime minister was expected to give further details of his plans on Friday at a press conference in Madrid with the Spanish prime minister, Mariano Rajoy. It is likely to involve an expansion of the Vulnerable Persons Relocation scheme, which has admitted a small number of refugees from camps in countries neighbouring Syria. Refugees can only qualify under this scheme if they have been the victim of torture or sexual violence or are too elderly or disabled to survive in the camps.

There was confusion after the UN refugee agency suggested that Britain would be taking an extra 4,000 refugees, then later clarified that they had received no such confirmation.
Cameron suggested Britain wanted to take refugees from the camps to discourage people from making the “hazardous” journey to the UK. Refugees travel to the UK because they can claim asylum in Britain.

The prime minister said: “We will continue with our approach of taking those from the refugee camps. This provides them with a direct and safe route to the UK, rather than risking the hazardous journey which has cost so many lives. We will discuss how best to design these schemes and the numbers we will take with NGOs and partners. And we will set out further details next week.”

Cameron defended Britain’s response so far to the crisis, saying the UK has provided generous support for refugees in the camps. “Britain has a moral responsibility to help refugees, as we have done throughout our history. We already are providing sanctuary and we will continue to do so,” he said.

“As the second-largest bilateral donor to the crisis, we have provided over £900m in aid to help those affected in Syria and the region – funding shelter, food, water and vital medical supplies for millions of desperate refugees fleeing the conflict and helping them to survive in the countries surrounding Syria, like Jordan and Lebanon.

“No European country has done more than Britain in this regard. Were it not for that massive aid, the numbers making the perilous journey to Europe today would be even higher.”

Melissa Fleming, of the UN refugee agency, told Associated Press: “We obviously welcome very much the move to increase resettlement spaces for Syrians in the UK. Those spaces are going to be critical to the lives and future of 4,000 people. We certainly believe that there’s the momentum here for other countries to follow suit.”

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