UK to act with 'urgency' over Syrian refugees says PM

 

David Cameron and Ed Miliband on UK helping Syrian refugees

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The UK will act "with the greatest urgency" in offering the "most needy people" in Syrian refugee camps a "home in our country", says David Cameron.

The prime minister told MPs he wanted to "particularly help those who have been victims of sexual violence".

Deputy PM Nick Clegg said on Tuesday torture victims, elderly and disabled people would also get priority.

The government expects the number of refugees accepted to be in the hundreds but has not set a specific target.

Syria refugee camp Germany is taking 11,000 refugees

The UK's resettlement programme is to be separate from the ongoing UN High Commissioner for Refugees scheme which has seen Germany commit to admitting more than 10,000 Syrian refugees and France take 500.

The government has been reluctant to admit any Syrian refugees to the UK, preferring to focus its humanitarian aid on refugees in the region.

But a fear of looking hard hearted and the threat of parliamentary defeat on Wednesday changed minds in Downing Street.

The deputy prime minister Nick Clegg said Britain had a moral responsibility to help and several hundred refugees would now be able to come.

It is not clear where the refugees will go or how long they will stay but it is expected they will get temporary visas that will be reviewed after three years.

The government is still refusing to take part in a resettlement scheme run by the UN high commissioner for refugees.

But the agency welcomed the government's offer and said it would help officials identify the most vulnerable people.

Home Secretary Theresa May told MPs the UK's goal was a political settlement that would "bring an end to the violence in Syria", allowing Syrians to "return to their homes and livelihoods in peace".

But the UK had agreed with the UNHCR office in London to set up a "vulnerable person relocation scheme", which will run in parallel to the agency's own refugee scheme, with the aim of resettling those at the "greatest risk" in the UK.

The programme will focus on individual cases "where evacuation from the region is the only option", said the home secretary, and will "prioritise help for survivors of torture and women and children in need of medical care", as recommended by the UNHCR. There would also be a focus on rescuing the victims of sexual violence, Mrs May told MPs.

"This is in the spirit of the UNHCR programme but it is not technically part of it," she added, saying it would provide "greater flexibility".

She said 3,500 Syrian refugee asylum seekers were already in the UK.

Ahead of that statement Labour leader Ed Miliband welcomed the move to take refugees and urged the PM to act with urgency.

Mr Cameron replied: "We will act with the greatest urgency because, when it comes to Syria, we have acted with the greatest urgency throughout.

"We have made available £600m, which makes us the second largest humanitarian donor, we provided food for 188,000 people, clean water for almost a million and medical consultations for almost a quarter of a million.

"We will be coming forward with a scheme to help the most needy people in those refugee camps and offer them a home in our country."

During exchanges in the Commons on Monday, the government faced criticism from MPs of all political parties for declining to participate in the UN-led scheme.

The deputy prime minister's announcement on Tuesday, and the PM's comments, pre-empted a Labour-led debate on the issue, where the government was facing the prospect of a Commons defeat over its refusal to sign up to the UNHCR initiative.

Syrian refugee children play at Al Zaatri refugee camp in the Jordanian city of Mafraq, near the border with Syria The UK says half of Syria's nine million population have been displaced

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.

"We are one of the most open-hearted countries in the world and I believe we have a moral responsibility to help.

Chart showing country pledges on Syrian refugees

"The UN High Commission for Refugees - which backs our new resettlement programme - has said the highest priority should go to women and girls who have experienced or are at risk of sexual violence; the elderly; survivors of torture and individuals with disabilities, so that's who we'll target.

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

The BBC understands the refugees will be given temporary visas allowing them to stay for at least three years.

The visas will then be reviewed on a case-by-case basis taking into account personal circumstances and the situation in Syria.

The UNHC's representative in the UK, Roland Schilling, said the government move was "an encouraging and important step, reaffirming the UK's commitment and contribution to international relief efforts".

Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper: ''It is a good thing that the government has completely reversed its position''

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said the government's move was a "big reversal" but that "compassion and common sense have won through".

"Vulnerable Syrian refugees, torture victims, abandoned children and those struggling to cope or survive in the camps desperately need sanctuary and Britain has a moral obligation to help," she said.

But she said the UK should be working with the UN to decide on numbers rather than setting up a "parallel programme" of its own.

Refugees fleeing Syria
Map showing the number of Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries

The move was welcomed by MPs from all sides of the Commons, former Lib Dem leader Sir Menzies Campbell saying it gave the UK flexibility to help those whose suffering had been the most "grievous".

But Conservative Brooks Newmark - an expert on Syria - said numbers should be limited and those countries not making such a big contribution to the aid effort should be taking in more refugees than the UK.

UKIP leader Nigel Farage also backed the move, saying a clear distinction must be made between genuine refugees from persecution and economic migrants.

The Refugee Council's Maurice Wren said the move had been a "long time coming" but the UK was standing up for an important principle.

And Amnesty International UK director Kate Allen said: "This move is long overdue but of course it's never too late to do the right thing."

 

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  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 1216.

    Won't integrate, drain on services, we're already full up... blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

    One day, hopefully they'll have a 'Road to Damascus moment'.

  • rate this
    +13

    Comment number 1215.

    The UK taxpayer as already spent around £250 per refugee. That's enough to buy a tent, blankets, clean water and basic food for months for each and every refugee.

    Add in what as been given via charities and the UK have no need to feel shame over the help given.

  • rate this
    -6

    Comment number 1214.

    "fedupwithfreeloaders
    People used to respond to the use of terms like xenophobe or racist by shutting up, but I am pleased to see that the majority of people in this country, who oppose further immigration, are speaking up regardless."

    I'm confused. Are you admitting to being a racist and a xenophobe then ??

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 1213.

    so the disabled and elderly are to b e preferred? According to recent press, NHS enquiries, politicians spouting forth and our own experience we know we can't cope with care for our own elderly or disabled. Most of us are struiggling and I just hope MY taxes don't go up to pay for this...and that conversion to Christianity becomes a must for any of this lot. sick of the whol damned thing!

  • Comment number 1212.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 1211.

    The war machine is the biggest industry in the world that doesn't suffer from recession or the like and it needs conflicts to survive.

    A sad truth here is that Western & Eastern powers have know a lot of these regimes were repressive or unfair but none had any qualms to court them at military fairs & sell them vast amounts of modern armaments, then they wounder how the fighting got so bad.

  • rate this
    -11

    Comment number 1210.

    Lot of dimwits on this topic, won’t count on you in a crisis that’s for sure! We need to help these people all we can and not turn them away. I would sooner my taxes went to refugees than bailing out stupid bankers.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 1209.

    1182.AdrianM

    It must be very frustrating sitting on the sidelines shouting your soundbites without actually taking part in any debate.
    I suppose its tricky when you cannot actually back up your multiculti dogma with facts.

    I am starting to believe that Liemore are actually paying people to post on HYS to keep the dogma running. Shame they always end up in the Lowest rated section.

  • rate this
    -5

    Comment number 1208.

    Today its Syrians.. Tomorrow it may be us or our children or our grand children... Today it may be war which is creating refugees in other countries, Tomorrow the side effects of Global warming may create refugees from UK to other, When we are in real trouble and if anybody provides us shelter and food, then we will know how much help we really doing now by helping real refugees.

  • rate this
    +8

    Comment number 1207.

    @Wakeupthesheeple
    If you feel that strongly about it please volunteer your services to go to Syria and help out there! No? I thought not - quick to criticise others' opinions but I doubt you would directly help either.

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 1206.

    Looks like someone(s) has have hacked the BBC HYS ratings system below judging by the extravagant scores NSA has been snooping into 'Angry Birds' data so are HYS would be a piece of cake.

  • rate this
    +10

    Comment number 1205.

    I sympathise with their plight. But the problem here as I see it is that we are a small island, which is now more prone to flooding due to being concreted over, the roads are full, the trains are full, pensioners can't afford to pay bills, ghettos are forming in areas of the country, we have imported lots of bad qualities from certain countries, we are being turned into a 3rd world country.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 1204.

    By giving financial support we made a great example of common sense to the rest of Europe by showing them the best way to approach this sort of problem.

    Unfortunately the government has given in to irrational do-gooders who just act on impulse.

  • rate this
    -7

    Comment number 1203.

    Dismayed to read some of the anti-refugee comments from British people on this BBC article. Shame on you! Where's your compassion and human kindness? What if it were you fleeing? We must do all we can to resettle Syrian refugees - and particularly children - caught up in this conflict. Brit gov't shd work hard to help Syrian refugees overcome their trauma & rebuild lives, too.

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 1202.

    1173.B Burnett
    "Australia took 1,000s of Vietnamese refugees during 60s - 70s and got their fingers burnt. Refugees brought major social problems as they couldn't integrate or contribute to Australian society"
    =
    Got proof?

    Do you think the arrival of British settlers caused social problems, and failed integrate or contribute to the existing Aboriginal cultures inhabiting Australia?

  • rate this
    +8

    Comment number 1201.

    when will it all end, yet more people on benefits swallowing up tax payers hard earned cash, nhs already on its knees,our kids suffering even more in deprived areas, these politicians dont give a damn about their own people they just want to look good yet they dont have to live next to them.

  • rate this
    -6

    Comment number 1200.

    How shocking in this day and age that this is even being debated? I would be interested in seeing if all those opposed to this could look a Syrian refugee in the eyes and tell them that they cannot get help here. Carry on starving as we have scroungers of our own.

    We are a human race, and it is our moral responsibility to help those in trouble, regardless on what patch of land they are from.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 1199.

    Remember the recession? Remember when we were brought to our knees? Remember the horror stories afterwards of how close we came to absolute economic meltdown?

    And who came to our aid? Who threw a couple of billion our way without any strings attached?

    No one. That's the thanks our selfless generosity has gotten us.

    The rest of the world can go hang for all I care

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 1198.

    In a perfect world we would open our arms to all that are in need BUT we do not live in a perfect world ,In fact our world is slowly slipping back into the dark ages.
    I can not blame people for saying enough is enough because alot of what they say is true ,We are already extremely over stretched and there is no light at the end of the tunnel infact the tunnel only ever seems to get deeper

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 1197.

    Andy 1158

    These immigrants don't struggle to adapt to us. They don't try. That's why the police have said there are areas of Britain where they never go because no incidents are reported. The inhabitants sort things out themselves.

    This situation can only develop and increase as immigrant areas expand thanks to continuing immigration,high birth rates etc

    Britain is being Balkanised.

 

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    Mr Kenny says: "This is the same boss who used private equity to take Boots private and move the domicile off shore to stop paying corporation tax since 2007. Given the amount of taxpayers money Boots get from NHS you would think this guy would keep his head down. There used to be the slogan 'no taxation without representation'. Surely the opposite is equally true."

     
  49.  
    10:14: Ex-Army chief on IS

    Former head of the army Lord Dannat tells Sky News' Dermot Murnaghan that Islamic State (IS) can be beaten.""if there is the right degree of equipment, training and support from ourselves".

    Lord Dannat warns this will be a "generational struggle" and tells Murnahan the coalition against IS has "to grow" for this to work.

    There has been international outrage after a video appearing to show the beheading of Japanese hostage Kenji Goto by an IS militant appeared online.

     
  50.  
    09:56: Syriza on Marr
    Marina Prentoulis

    Catching up with an earlier Marr interview now. The academic Marina Prentoulis, from Syriza London, was on the show, talking about the new Syriza government in Greece which seems determined to carry out its campaign promise, to overturn years of enforced austerity.

    Ms Prentoulis, from Syriza London, called on the Labour Party to support that fight against austerity.

    "Any person who calls themselves a socialist should come out against austerity," she told Marr.

     
  51.  
    Nick Robinson Political editor

    tweets: So close and yet....anyone else finding this agony? @BBCSport: Novak Djokovic takes the first set 7-6 on a tie-break. @BBCOne @bbc5live

    (BBC Sport has live coverage of the Australian Open tennis final)

     
  52.  
    Editor of @SchoolsWeek Laura McInerney

    tweets: I think Nicky Morgan has said "since I've been going around the country" - about ten times. It's the new "as a mum". #Marr

     
  53.  
    09:50: Morgan on Marr

    Nicky Morgan dismisses claims that her predecessor Michael Gove is "back seat driving" the education department as a "complete load of nonsense."

    Michael Gove has been "nothing but supportive", and while he may have seen some departmental briefings in his role as Chief Whip Ms Morgan affirms "I am in charge of the Department of Education".

     
  54.  
    The Andrew Marr Show

    tweets: Morgan - It is an 'outrage' if students leave school with qualifications that do not help them to enter the world of work #marr #marrshow

     
  55.  
    09:47: Morgan on Marr

    Asked by Andrew Marr whether schools funding for ages five - 16 will be "ring fenced" under a Conservative government Nicky Morgan nods. She tells Marr that she is "fighting" for the funding.

     
  56.  
    09:43: Nicky Morgan on Marr
    Nicky Morgan on The Andrew Marr Show

    Education Secretary Nicky Morgan is on the Andrew Marr Show, defending her "war on illiteracy and innumeracy" which includes new plans to get all children to know their 12 times table when they leave primary school.

    "Getting... the absolute basics right has to be at the core of our education system," she says.

     
  57.  
    09:38: Alexander on Marr

    Douglas Alexander refuses to be drawn on whether he will make a deal with SNP and Sinn Fein to from a majority government after the general elections. But he accuses the Conservatives of trying to "split the vote on the left" after they tweeted a mocked-up picture of Ed Miliband alongside SNP politician Alex Salmond and Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams, with the caption: "Your worst nightmare just got even worse."

    Labour has vowed not to feature Prime Minister David Cameron on its campaign billboards ahead of the general election.

     
  58.  
    The Andrew Marr Show

    tweets: Alexander - Voting for the SNP in the general election will result in a Conservative government

     
  59.  
    09:34: Alexander on Marr

    Douglas Alexander is pressed on the challenge facing Labour in Scotland, where Andrew Marr suggests his own seat is under pressure. "The polls are tough", Mr Alexander says, adding that he realises there is an appetite for change north of the border. But he says "I share that appetite for change" and adds: "The way we can secure that change is to deliver the maximum number of Labour MPs..."

     
  60.  
    09:28: Alexander on Marr
    Douglas Alexander on The Andrew Marr Show

    Labour election strategist Douglas Alexander tells the Andrew Marr Show: "We face a challenge to secure a recovery that reaches beyond the city of London and reaches kitchen tables right around the country."

     
  61.  
    Robin Brant Political Correspondent, BBC News

    tweets: first question to @NickyMorgan01 on @MarrShow is surely 'whats 12 x 12?'

    Robin is of course referencing the education secretary's "war on illiteracy and innumeracy" which state that all children in England will need to know up to their 12 times table when they leave primary school.

     
  62.  
    Guardian political editor Patrick Wintour

    tweets: Some pointed advice from Andrew Rawnsley for Tony Blair - time to say whose side you are on.

     
  63.  
    09:13: Papers on Marr
    Sun on Sunday editor Victoria Newton and impressionist Rory Bremner are doing the paper review to get The Andrew Marr Show under way

    Reviewing the newspapers on the Andrew Marr Show, impressionist Rory Bremner picks out the Observer's story on what it says is an acute shortage of beds for young mental health patients. This will be a "critical area" for the next government to get involved in, the comedian says. His fellow paper reviewer is Sun on Sunday editor Victoria Newton.

     
  64.  
    Labour press team

    tweets: Labour's Shadow Foreign Secretary @DAlexanderMP will be speaking to the @MarrShow this morning on @BBCTwo at 9am

     
  65.  
    08:50: 'Back seat driving' The Independent
    The Independent on Sunday

    The Independent on Sunday claims former Education Secretary Michael Gove is still "back-seat driving" his old department and maintains a "shadowy influence" behind the back of his "more teacher-friendly" successor Mrs Morgan.

    The paper says the chief whip still receives paperwork related to Department for Education issues.

     
  66.  
    08:44: New beds crisis
    The Observer

    The Observer leads on what it says is an acute shortage of beds for young mental health patients in the NHS.

    According to guidelines from NHS England, leaked to the Observer, 16 and 17-year olds, who should be admitted to specialist child adolescent mental health facilities (Camhs), are likely instead to be admitted to adult wards.

     
  67.  
    08:41: 'War on illiteracy' Sunday Times
    Sunday Times

    The Sunday Times's top story (paywall) is Education Secretary Nicky Morgan's "war on illiteracy and innumeracy". The paper says she plans to remove head teachers from schools where 11-year-old pupils cannot pass tests on basic English and times tables.

     
  68.  
    08:37: Miliband attacked The Daily Telegraph
    Telegraph

    Ed Miliband has faced criticism from a leading business chief who said a Labour government would be a "catastrophe" for the UK.

    Stefano Pessina, acting chief executive of Boots, said in an interview with today's Sunday Telegraph that Mr Miliband's plans were "not helpful for business, not helpful for the country and in the end, it probably won't be helpful for them".

    He did not elaborate on which specific policies of the party he disliked but told the newspaper: "If they acted as they speak, it would be a catastrophe."

     
  69.  
    08:33: Sunday papers
    Papers

    It is a very mixed - and highly politicised - Sunday for headlines in the nationals. You can read the full write up from our online paper reviewers. But we'll also break it down into bite-sized chunks for you in the next few entries.

     
  70.  
    08:28: Coming up

    A few must watch items for your Sunday morning:

    The Andrew Marr Show is at 09:00 when Education Secretary Nicky Morgan and Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander will be on the sofa. You can watch via the Live Coverage tab at the top of this page.

    Sunday Politics, tennis permitting, at 11:00 will hear from Culture Secretary Sajid Javid and Labour MP Tom Watson. Again, watch live on this page.

    Other options for your Sunday morning political fix include Pienaar's Politics from 10:00 to 11:00 on BBC radio 5Live and we'll also bring you updates from the Murnaghan programme, over on Sky News from 10:00-12:00.

    And of course you may want to keep one eye on events in Melbourne too, where Andy Murray is taking on Novak Djokovic in the Australian Open tennis final. The BBC has live coverage here.

     
  71.  
    08:20: Good morning

    Hello and welcome to Politics Live. Over the course of the next 10 hours we'll be bringing you all the news, views and analysis as it happens from the BBC's political team in text and video - including all the key moments from the Andrew Marr Show, Sunday Politics, the World This Weekend and reaction to the big Sunday newspaper stories. You can see how Friday, which was a Churchill remembered special, unfolded by clicking here.

     

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