Syrian refugees: Charities urge PM to allow more into UK

Syrian refugee children Image copyright AFP
Image caption About 100 Syrian refugees have been allowed shelter in the UK, figures are expected to show

Britain has made a "woefully inadequate" attempt to resettle Syrian refugees, charities have said.

They say figures to be published on Thursday show only 100 Syrians have been given shelter in the UK.

In a letter to Prime Minister David Cameron, charities and aid agencies have urged him to allow thousands more refugees to come to the country.

Figures are also expected to show the government is failing to hit its target of reducing net migration by 2015.

In January the government announced its "vulnerable person relocation scheme" aimed at helping the most needy people fleeing the war-torn country.

The scheme expects to relocate only a few hundred Syrians over the next three years.

'10,000 Syrians'

But Oxfam, Save the Children, Amnesty International, the Refugee Council and more than 25 other organisations said that target was grossly inadequate.

In a letter to Mr Cameron the charities said: "Figures released today will show that Britain has only so far resettled around 100 Syrian refugees, a woefully inadequate number compared to the scale of the crisis.

"While we applaud Britain's generous aid contribution to the crisis, it is clear that aid alone is not enough. Syria's neighbours are struggling under the weight of this unprecedented crisis and it is time we stopped asking of them what we are not doing ourselves."

The letter said it wanted the rich and developed countries to agree collectively to resettle at least 5% of the total Syrian refugee population by the end of 2015.

"This is a modest but proportionate contribution and Britain's fair share of that would involve offering hope for up to 10,000 Syrians in that time. That's less than 0.3% of all the refugees, but would transform, even save, lives," the letter said.

Oxfam chief executive Mark Goldring said: "It's unlike this country not to offer people a safe haven.

"Our government has a responsibility to rise above domestic politics and see this for what it is: Britain giving safe, often temporary, homes to people in the direst of need."

And Refugee Council chief executive Maurice Wren added: "While the prospects for peace appear more remote than ever, the future for Syria's refugees is bleak.

"Unable to return home, these people's lives depend on the compassion and generosity of countries like ours."

'Not on track'

The UK is the second biggest financial contributor to aid funds for the war-torn country, and has provided more than £600m to date.

In terms of immigration numbers, Mr Cameron has previously said he intended to cut the level of net migration down to the tens of thousands by next year.

The new figures, to be published by the Office of National Statistics (ONS), will indicate whether progress has been made towards this objective.

The last set of figures - published at the end of August - showed overall net migration rose to 243,000 in the year to March, up from 175,000 the previous year.

Immigration increased 13% from 492,000 in the previous year to 560,000, while the number of people leaving the UK remained stable at 316,000, the Office of National Statistics (ONS) said.

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