UK 'working on' Syria refugee plan, Hague says

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionForeign Secretary William Hague says government is working on plan for "vulnerable" Syrian refugees to come to the UK

The British government is "working on" a plan to allow some Syrian refugees to come to the UK, Foreign Secretary William Hague has said.

He said Home Secretary Theresa May was looking at how to help "particularly vulnerable" people trapped in Syria.

He did not comment on particular groups to be helped, but said more details would be given "in the coming days".

Mr Hague added there was a "serious danger" of radicalisation among people returning to the UK from Syria.

Labour said the government should speed up its response and sign up to a UN resettlement programme.

Speaking on BBC One's Andrew Marr Show, Mr Hague was asked if "vulnerable" people meant particular religious groups such as Christians, but he refused to confirm that and said: "This is still being worked on."

'Very difficult cases'

Mr Hague said Britain's "main effort" in the Syrian conflict would continue to be helping people inside the country.

"British aid is helping a third of a million of people with people every day, a million with drinking water, a third of a million a month with medical consultations," he said.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Mr Hague said Britain was looking at how to help vulnerable Syrians
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Peace talks to end the fighting began in Switzerland on Wednesday
Image copyright AFP
Image caption More than 100,000 people have died since the conflict began in 2011

On the subject of radicalised people returning to the UK from Syria, Mr Hague stressed the issue was a "serious danger".

He said British people should not go to Syria "under any circumstances" and those who did could have their passports or permission to remain in the UK removed.

His comments come as Syrian government and opposition delegations take part in a second day of face-to-face peace talks in Geneva. They are expected to discuss prisoner releases.

Commenting on the talks, Mr Hague said the "real test" would be whether the regime would "engage on setting up a transitional government".

He said the opposition - to their "great credit" - had accepted the possibility of a transitional body containing both opposition and regime members.

But he said the "biggest sticking point" was President Bashar al-Assad's refusal to stand down.

"Nobody really, rationally can imagine Syria ever being led again - after this terrible oppression and murder and death of so many people - by the same person."

'Inching forward'

At Prime Minister's Questions this week, David Cameron said the UK had taken "over 1,000 asylum seekers from Syria in recent months".

He said almost half of Syria's nine million people were "displaced or at risk of displacement", and the problem could not be solved by other countries taking in "a few hundred refugees".

But he said he was "happy for us to look at that argument" in "very difficult cases of people who don't belong in refugee camps", such as those left disabled by the fighting.

Meanwhile, Labour has tabled a motion, to be considered by MPs on Wednesday, calling on the government to sign up to the UN resettlement programme for Syrian refugees.

Responding to Mr Hague's comments on Sunday, shadow home Secretary Yvette Cooper said the government was "inching forward" but said ministers must do "much more and quickly".

"The UN have made it clear that torture victims, abandoned children and other vulnerable refugees will struggle to survive or cope in [refugee] camps and need to be given sanctuary elsewhere," she said.

"I urge the government to back our motion and vote in Parliament on Wednesday to properly help these vulnerable refugees."

Asked how many refugees the UK should take, Ms Cooper said the government should "look at how many places we can provide".

Syria's civil conflict has claimed well over 100,000 lives since it began in 2011.

More on this story