UK to take in 'thousands' of Syrian refugees

UK Prime Minister announces Britain will take in 'thousands' of Syrian refugees from UN camps bordering Syria following significant pressure from public and political figures pushing UK to act

Photo by: AP
Photo by: AP

British Prime Minister David Cameron arrives to deliver a statement at the Sao Bento palace in Lisbon following a meeting with his Portuguese counterpart Pedro Passos Coelho, Friday, Sept. 4 2015.

UK Prime Minister David Cameron issued a statement on Friday announcing that Britain is to provide resettlement to "thousands" of Syrian refugees in response to the worsening humanitarian crisis after being pressured by many public and political figures.

However, those refugees would come from UN camps bordering Syria, and not from the people already in Europe.

Britain will take action with its "head and heart," Cameron said, as he promised to find long-term solutions to the crisis.

Cameron said the UK had already accepted around 5,000 Syrians under its existing resettlement plans which would continue to take in more refugees.

"Given the scale of the crisis and the suffering of people, today, I can announce that we will do more in providing resettlement for thousands more Syrian refugees," Cameron told reporters in Lisbon after meeting his Portuguese counterpart.

Following intense media coverage of the image of a dead body of a Syrian toddler, Aylan Kurdi, who was washed up on a Turkish beach on the Mediterranean, the UK government has faced more pressure and calls to take in many more refugees.

A Turkish police officer carries Aylan Kurdi, the three year old toddler who drowned in a failed attempt to sail to the Greek island of Kos.

Aylan’s aunt, Tima Kurdi, who spoke to the BBC's Victoria Derbyshire programme, said Aylan and his brother's death should be "a wake-up call for the whole world."

Cameron had previously argued that the solution for the escalating refugee crisis in Europe, was not to take in more people, emphasising that accepting more refugees  would make it worse by increasing pull factors and encouraging people traffickers.

However, the government's stance towards solving the crisis came under pressure from public and political figures pushing it to change its policies in the short-term.

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon urged Cameron to accept more refugees into the UK. Former Labour Home Secretary David Blunkett also argued that the UK should take in 25,000 over the next six months while Bristol's mayor called the residents of the city to use their spare rooms to help.

A petition paper which went viral calling on the UK to accept more refugees got more than three times the 100,000 signatures needed for it to be eligible for a debate in Parliament.

During the last four years, almost 5,000 Syrians have been granted asylum and Britian has accepted 216 Syrian refugees under a project to relocate those most vulnerable and in dire need, which began in January 2014.

Cameron stated that Britian had provided Syria with £900m in aid, including food and medical supplies, which had stopped greater numbers from trying to journey to Europe but said that the UK would now go further in extending sanctuary to more refugees.

"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,” he said.

"We will continue with our approach of taking them from refugee camps. This provides them with a more direct and safe route to the United Kingdom rather than risking the hazardous journey which has tragically cost so many of their lives."


TRTWorld and agencies