Hundreds of Syrians to be given refuge: Clegg brokers deal to allow most vulnerable victims of civil war including children and disabled to come to Britain
- Precedence to be given to most vulnerable Syrians seeking refuge abroad
- Plan agreed last night after weeks of talks within Coalition government
- UK is already the second largest bilateral donor to Syrian refugees
Precedence will be given to the most extreme cases such as women and children at risk of sexual violence, the elderly, survivors of torture and people with disabilities, Nick Clegg announced.
The Deputy Prime Minister said Britain had a ‘moral responsibility’ to help alleviate the suffering in the region, where more than 100,000 people have died and many millions displaced from their homes.
The plan was agreed last night after weeks of talks between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats about how to respond to the Syrian conflict, which has raged for almost three years.
David Cameron has come under pressure from Mr Clegg, Labour’s Ed Miliband and Ukip leader Nigel Farage to join the countries currently offering sanctuary to some of the refugees.
More than 11.5million people inside Syria and those who have fled to neighbouring countries are in need of food, shelter and medical treatment.
Mr Cameron appears to have overcome objections from the Home Office by agreeing to let in ‘hundreds’ of vulnerable people, but without joining the United Nations quota system.
The UN High Commission for Refugees is calling for Western nations to admit 30,000 Syrians between them. But last week immigration minister Mark Harper said the quota system only provides ‘token relief’.
A government source said there were concerns that quotas would encourage a ‘box ticking culture’ among other countries who have not matched Britain’s record on aid to the region.
The UK is the second largest bilateral donor having given £600million aid to help refugees in the region.
Sources said the deal was supported by Mr Cameron and Nick Clegg and there had not been a ‘Whitehall battle’ over it.
‘We will be looking case-by-case at the most vulnerable to see if we can help them’, a source said. The number is expected to be ‘in the hundreds’ to be brought here over the coming months and to start ‘very quickly’.
At least 1,500 people have already been able to settle in the UK through a programme to help those with existing family ties. But in the Commons last week, the Prime Minister warned that small quotas would have to be considered carefully in a crisis involving millions of people.
Mr Clegg said last night that Britain had now agreed to provide refuge to those ‘most traumatised’ by the crisis without setting specific targets. The UN, which backs the UK’s stance, will help identify these people.
‘The £600million 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.’
He said they intended to target those ‘in greatest need’ and continue to support the peace talks underway in Geneva between the Assad regime and opposition forces to find a political solution.
Mr Clegg added: ‘We are one of the most open hearted countries in the world and I believe we have a moral responsibility to help.
'Britain has a long and proud tradition of providing refuge at times of crisis. This Coalition Government will ensure it lives on.’