An unspecified number of refugee children who have been separated from their parents by conflicts in the Middle East will be taken into Britain, the government said Thursday.
The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, will work with British officials to identify children who will be eligible for residency in Britain, the Home Office announced.
Approximately 20,000 refugees from camps, in Syria’s borders, will be brought in by 2020, Prime Minister David Cameron announced in September last year. So far, more than 1,000 have arrived, half of them being children.
Britain declined the European Union’s quotas for taking refugees and dispersing them around the 28 nation alliance.
Immigration Minister James Brokenshire said in a statement that the crisis in Syria, as well as the events in the Middle East, North Africa and beyond has separated a large number of refugee children from their families.
Brokenshire said that the “vast majority” of them were better off staying in the region with extended family members.
He also asked the UNHCR to identify exceptional cases, where the child’s best interest may be served by resettlement in the UK, and requested assistance to bring them there.
The number of children that would be affected by the scheme have not yet been confirmed, a Home Office spokeswoman said.
Pressure has increased on world leaders, including Cameron, to take more refugees in after three-year-old Syrian child, Alan Kurdi, washed up on the Turkish shore last year, as his family tried to seek refuge.
Britain announced on Thursday that the initiation of a new fund, of up to 10 million pounds, to support refugee children within Europe.
Cameron had failed to deliver on a pledge to cut the annual net migration figures to below 100,000 when it hit a record high of over 300,000 last year.
Opponents criticised the British prime minister on Wednesday at the House of Commons as being insensitive as he referred to the refugees as “a bunch of migrants” at camps in Calais, northern France.
Camp Calais, known as the “jungle” due to its grubby conditions, is a camp sheltering thousands of Britain-bound refugees at France’s northern ports, a train or ferry ride away from Britain.
It is a thorn in the side of France’s diplomatic relation with Britain, with both sides trying to push responsibility over the refugees onto each other.
As the refugee crisis spread across Europe, the numbers at Calais have reached 4,000 refugees.