Archbishop of Canterbury offers cottage to refugees

Justin Welby Image copyright PA

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has promised to offer sanctuary for Syrian refugees at Lambeth Palace.

A spokesman for the archbishop said refugees would be welcome to a four-bedroom cottage at the palace, his official London residence.

Lambeth Palace said it was something he had been considering for "a while".

His gesture follows a similar move by the Catholic church after Pope Francis said two refugee families would move into Vatican housing.

'Desperate for sanctuary'

A spokeswoman said the cottage, which is situated in the grounds of Lambeth Palace, is currently being redecorated and could provide room for a "family or two".

She said: "As a Christian who leads the Church of England it is something he feels absolutely passionate about.

"As the archbishop has said, Jesus was a refugee, and there are refugees here who are desperate for sanctuary from war-torn places and the archbishop is completely torn about their situation and wants to make a difference."

Image copyright PA
Image caption Lambeth Palace is the archbishop's official London residence

Meanwhile, the first of 20,000 Syrian refugees are expected to arrive in the UK in the coming days.

Prime Minister David Cameron said earlier in the month that the UK would be taking in that amount of refugees by the year 2020.

However the refugees will be taken from camps bordering Syria, and according to the Church Times the Most Rev Justin Welby argues that this neglects Christian refugees, who avoid the camps for fear of religious persecution.

The Church Times said the archbishop had met privately with the prime minister to discuss the issue.

Since January 2014 a total of 216 Syrian refugees have been taken into the UK under the government's Vulnerable People Relocation Scheme (VPRS).

Before that about 5,000 Syrians have been granted asylum in the UK in the last four years.

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