Prime Minister David Cameron said Britain will accept up to 20,000 refugees from Syria over the next five years….reports Asian Lite News
The prime minister said the UK had a “moral responsibility” to resettle refugees living in camps bordering Syria while also doing all it can to end the conflict in the country.
Vulnerable children and orphans would be prioritised in what would be a “national effort”, Mr Cameron said. France earlier announced that it would take in 24,000 refugees over the next two years. More than 300,000 people have crossed the Mediterranean to Europe so far this year.
The Prime Minister has been adamant, though, that Britain will not join a proposedEU scheme to redistribute some 160,000 people among the 28 member states, despite risking alienating key allies including Angela Merkel.
It came after a home affairs spokesperson for the German Chancellor suggested Cameron’s unwillingness to take in any more refugees than the original 216 figurecould hurt Britain’s plans to renegotiate its relationship with the EU. Germany has said it expects 800,000 refugees with asylum by the end of 2015
In a statement to Parliament, Mr Cameron also revealed that a British citizen believed to planning terrorist attacks on the UK had been killed in an RAF drone strike in Syria last month.
Mr Cameron told MPs that the suffering of the Syrian people and others trying to make it to Europe in recent weeks was “heartbreaking” and that the UK was stepping up its effort to help those displaced by the conflict.
He told MPs that the existing Vulnerable Persons Relocation (VPR) Scheme, in place since early 2014, would be expanded, with an additional 20,000 people currently living in camps in Syria, Turkey and Jordan being resettled in the UK by 2020.
People brought to Britain under VPR have been granted Humanitarian Protection, a status normally used for people who “don’t qualify for asylum” but would be at “real risk of suffering serious harm” in their home country.
They can stay for five years, have the right to work and access public funds. After five years they can apply to settle in the UK.
Mr Cameron told MPs that the criteria applied to the scheme would be widened and that the UN High Commissioner for Refugees would be responsible for identifying and assessing those most in need.
“We are proposing that Britain should resettle up to 20,000 Syrian refugees over the rest of this Parliament,” he said.
“In doing so we will continue to show the world that this country is a country of extra compassion, always standing up for our values and helping those in need.”
“Britain will play its part alongside our other European partners but because we’re not part of the EU’s borderless Schengen agreement or its relocation initiative Britain is able to decide its own approach.
“We will continue with our approach of taking refugees from the camps and elsewhere in Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon. This provides refugees with a more direct and safe route to the UK rather than risking the hazardous journey to European which has tragically cost so many lives.”
Labour leader Harriet Harman said the government was doing the “right thing” but there was an urgent need for action now and questioned whether there was scope to accept more than 4,000 refugees this year.
She also called on the government to reconsider its refusal to accept any refugees currently in southern Europe.
The Prime Minister also confirmed that British forces had carried out an air strike in Syria to foil a “barbaric attack” being plotted against the UK by ‘Isis’ jihadists.
An RAF-piloted drone conducted a targeted strike to assassinate Reyaad Khan, the British-born radicalist who Cameron claimed was plotting an attack on UK soil.
Cardiff-born Reyaad Khan and Ruhul Amin, from Aberdeen, were killed by an RAF Reaper drone firing Hellfire missiles at the Isis stronghold of Raqqa in Syria on 21 August.
“We took this action because there was no alternative,” the Prime Minister said.
He added that there was a “clear legal basis” for killing Khan, and that it was an act of “self-defence” which did not require a vote in Parliament.
Asked by Labour’s interim leader Harriet Harman if the Welsh jihadist’s killing was the first of its kind by Britain, Cameron confirmed: “The answer to that is yes. This is a new departure.”
Mr Cameron also revealed that another British Isis terror suspect Junaid Hussain was killed in a targeted drone strike by the US Air Force, a few days later on August 24.