‘Britain is a moral nation and we will fulfill our moral responsibilities,’ said Cameron
British Prime Minister David Cameron has said “as a father I felt deeply moved” by the image of a Syrian boy dead on a Turkish beach.
As pressure mounts on the UK to take more of the people fleeing to Europe from Syria, he added that the UK would fulfil its “moral responsibilities”, BBC reported.
Last year Britain accepted 216 people under a scheme to relocate the most vulnerable refugees, and almost 5,000 Syrians had been granted asylum in the last four years.
Labour leadership candidate Andy Burnham is calling for a emergency debate and vote on the issue when Parliament returns from its summer recess next week.
SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon accused the government of a “walk on by” attitude.
That followed Mr Cameron’s comment on Wednesday that taking “more and more” people was not the simple answer to the current migrant crisis. Instead, Mr Cameron said, the focus should be on bringing “peace and stability” to the war-ravaged parts of the world people were fleeing from, such as Syria.
Calls for the UK to do more intensified on Thursday after the picture of the dead boy on the beach sparked an outcry over the human cost of the crisis.
Mr Cameron was speaking after an online petition calling on the UK to accept more refugees passed the 100,000 threshold, meaning it is now eligible to be considered for a debate in Parliament.
“Britain is a moral nation and we will fulfil our moral responsibilities,” the PM said.
He pointed out the Royal Navy had been involved in rescue missions in the Mediterranean and said the UK was the second biggest bilateral donor in the world to help with the Syrian crisis.
Mr Cameron said the UK would continue to take in “thousands” of refugees, but he cautioned that this was not the only answer to the crisis, saying a “comprehensive solution” was required to address the problems at source.
“We have to try and stabilise the countries from which these people are coming,” he added.
Earlier, Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper has urged the UK political class to take greater responsibility for the, saying Britain had to be true to its values and history by taking up to 10,000 people fleeing the political turmoil in the Middle East.
“Britain has to respond to a humanitarian crisis on a scale we have not seen on our continent since the second world war,” she said.
Cooper said Theresa May, the home secretary, should end the paralysis and convene an urgent special conference with local councils to discuss how many refugees each town and city could take.
Her plan would require extra central government funding. The cash-strapped Local Government Association refused to comment on her plan, saying it was part of the Labour leadership contest, but Cooper said she will open talks with Labour councils herself if necessary to show May there is a willingness among local authorities to help – if funding is provided.
She suggested that if each town housed 10 refugee families, Britain could take in as many as 10,000 people in one month, not just from Syria, but also from Iraq and Libya. The UK government has so far taken only 200 refugees from Syria, although it has promised to a take a few hundred more as well as fund refugee settlements on the Syrian border.
Chancellor George Osborne said he was “very distressed” when he saw the image of the drowned Syrian boy in Turkey – and blamed his death on Islamic State and human traffickers.
He cautioned that there was no “simple answer” to this crisis but added: “You have got to make sure the aid keeps coming – we have put £1bn of overseas aid in to help these desperate people.
“And of course Britain has always been a home to real asylum seekers, genuine refugees. We have taken 5,000 people from the Syrian conflict, we will go on taking people and keep it under review.”
Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, described the situation as a “wicked crisis”.
“My heart is broken by the images and stories of men, women and children who have risked their lives to escape conflict, violence,” he said.
There have been cross-party calls at home and from abroad for the UK to take in more refugees, as Europe struggles to cope with the daily influx of migrants.
Attacking the government’s response to the crisis, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon pledged that Scotland would “stand ready to offer sanctuary to refugees that need our help”.
She said she was “reduced to tears” at the image of the dead child, adding: “He and thousands like him whose lives are at risk is not someone else’s responsibly; they are the responsibility of all of us.”
“I am very angry at the walk-on-by attitude of the UK government and I implore David Cameron to change his position and change it today,” she told the Scottish Parliament.
Former Tory chairman Baroness Warsi was among the Conservatives calling for the government to do more, suggesting more women and children refugees should be accepted by the UK.
She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme Britain had a “long and proud” tradition of helping in times of crisis, and should say to the rest of the Europe “that we will, too, share the burden”.
Tory MP David Burrowes said “thousands, not hundreds” of people should be taken in, while Ruth Davidson, leader of the Scottish Conservatives, tweeted “this is not an immigration issue, it’s a humanitarian one”, as she called for more help for refugees.
Immigration Minister James Brokenshire told the BBC the UK had contributed £900m in humanitarian aid to help with the Syrian crisis.
“The solutions lie beyond the shores of Europe and preventing people feeling they have to make that journey across the Mediterranean sea,” he told Radio Kent.
Ex-International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell told the BBC’s Newsnight the UK had done “more than the whole of the EU put together in terms of financial support”.
“Were Britain not providing that support, there would be yet more hundreds of thousands of people coming out of that part of the world,” he said.
About $900 per person to go to Germany or at least $560 to reach the border with Austria are some of the fees that traffickers take from the hundreds of refugees stranded in Budapest who cannot hide their doubts about going to them for help.
Hungarian police prevented hundreds of refugees coming from conflict zones in the Middle East from boarding trains to Austria or Germany,.
“Traffickers are here circling around, offering trips to Germany,” said Mohammed Saeed, a Syrian from Latakia who left his country after an arrest warrant was issued for participating in a protest against the regime of Bashar al-Assad.
“We are a group of four and we were asked for 2,500 euros ($2,800) to get to Germany. It was an offer to go as a group, individually they require about 800 euros,” the 24-year-old university student explained.
“I have some friends who traveled this week and are already in Germany. It is a risk but it’s the only way we have,” he added while charging his phone in the portable generator of a group of volunteers.
He also claimed he has heard of smugglers who took money from refugees and then left them abandoned on a Hungarian road without reaching their destination.
“We don’t have money, we have a total of about 500 euros, so we’ll wait a few days. Or we will walk into Austria and from there take a train,” he said.
The big risk in that way is for Hungarian police to stop them and take their fingerprints, which could hinder their application for asylum in Germany.
Despite the death by asphyxiation of 71 Syrian refugees in an abandoned truck last week on a highway in eastern Austria, Saeed believes that the role of traffickers is not all negative.
“Had it not been for the traffickers we would not have come here. If we are not allowed to travel, they are the only alternative left, that’s how things are,” he stressed.
So far there has not been a clear explanation of why Hungarian authorities allowed more than 3,600 people to board a train on Monday bound for Germany.
The Hungarian government argues that the current ban only meets its commitments to the Schengen area, by not allowing people from outside to access international means of transport without the necessary visa.
Hungary was the first member of the Schengen area on the Balkan route, which starts in Greece and more than 150,000 people have used to get to the Central European country so far this year.