UK & World News

  • 29 January 2014, 10:15

Syrian Refugees To Be Taken In By Britain

Britain is to take in some of the most vulnerable refugees from the Syrian civil war, the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has announced.

In a deal struck within Government, refuge will be provided for some of those most traumatised by the crisis, such as vulnerable women or children.

No figure is being put on the number of displaced people the UK will take, as the Government has ruled out quotas, but hundreds are expected to arrive over the coming year.

The United Nations sanctuary scheme aims to resettle up to 30,000 vulnerable Syrians in Western nations, but Mr Clegg said the UN High Commission for Refugees backs the Government's plans.

Home Secretary Theresa May will formally confirm the plans in a statement to the House of Commons on Wednesday, ahead of a debate called by Labour, which wants Britain to join the UNHCR scheme.

Mr Clegg said: "The coalition Government wants to play our part in helping to alleviate the immense suffering in Syria.

"The 600m we have provided makes us the second largest bilateral donor of humanitarian aid in the world.

"But as the conflict continues to force millions of Syrians from their homes, we need to make sure we are doing everything we can.

"Sadly we cannot provide safety for everyone who needs it, but we can reach out to some of those who need it most."

The Prime Minister had resisted signing Britain up to the UN sanctuary programme, arguing it is not the solution to a crisis which has seen millions of Syrians flee their homes in a three-year civil war.

However, after coming under pressure from Labour and Liberal Democrats, he told MPs at Prime Minister's Questions last week he was ready to consider taking in refugees in cases of extreme hardship.

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper welcomed the news but told Sky News: "In addition, ministers need to confirm that these will be additional places and will not be at the expense of help for other refugees.

"It would (also) be helpful for the Home Secretary to explain why ministers resisted for so long and to look urgently at removing refugees from the Government's net migration target.

"Immigration policy is very different from Britain's long tradition of providing sanctuary for those fleeing persecution and the two things should not be confused.

"The dreadful conflict in Syria has caused a humanitarian crisis. As well as helping all those we can in the region, it is right that we also do our bit to provide the most desperate refugees with a place of safety."

No target will be set for the numbers of refugees to be admitted, with the UK instead working with the UNHCR on a case-by-case basis to identify those most in need of assistance.

Refugees are expected to arrive on a gradual basis over the coming months.

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