Cameron resists pressure to take more Syrian refugees

British PM promised to fullfil 'moral duty' yet seeks comprehensive solution

Cameron resists pressure to take more Syrian refugees

World Bulletin / News Desk

Prime Minister David Cameron on Thursday promised Britain would fulfil its "moral responsibilities" in the migrants crisis but resisted growing pressure at home and abroad to accept a bigger share of Syrian refugees.

Cameron said he had been "deeply moved" by images of a three-year-old Syrian toddler found dead on a Turkish beach after a migrant boat sank but he stopped short of making any new commitments.

"We do care," Cameron told reporters during a factory visit in northeast England, adding: "I think Britain is a moral nation that always fulfils its moral responsibilities".

He said Britain would keep the number of refugees it accepts "under review" although he added: "There isn't a solution that's simply about taking people, it's got to be a comprehensive solution".

Britain has accepted 216 Syrian refugees under a special government scheme over the past year and around 5,000 Syrians have been granted asylum since the conflict there broke out in 2011 -- far fewer than countries like France, Germany and Sweden.

More than four million Syrians have fled the war.

Britain has also opted out of a quota system for relocating asylum seekers within the European Union despite growing calls in the EU for fairer distribution.

A petition to parliament urging Britain to accept more refugees has garnered nearly 190,000 signatures, while campaign group Avaaz said more than 2,000 Britons had volunteered to host refugee families.

"Mr. Cameron, Summer is Over... Now Deal With The Biggest Crisis Facing Europe Since WW2," read a headline in The Sun, Britain's best-selling newspaper, next to the photo of the dead Syrian boy on a Turkish beach that dominated the front pages.

Several editorials harked back to the times when Britain accepted huge numbers of refugees before and after World War II, and around the Balkan Wars.

"We have done it before, and can do it again," Alan Travis wrote in The Guardian, while David Aaronovitch in The Times said the international community as a whole should "rediscover the humanity of 1945".

On the streets of London, views on the issue varied.

"I can't believe that we haven't done anything before now," said 45-year-old Victoria Buurman as she walked with her shopping in central London.

"I think it's disgusting that we have to get to a point where children are dying before we even recognise that we're not acting morally. It's horrific," she said, breaking into tears.

But Souvik Ghosh, a 26-year-old research student from India, said Britain should not take any more migrants.

"There should be some limitations, OK? Because otherwise this country's economic system will be overflowed," he said.


Contenders for the leadership of the main opposition Labour Party have all urged Cameron to do more.

One of them, Yvette Cooper, has urged Britain to immediately accept 10,000 more Syrian refugees, while bookmakers' favourite Jeremy Corbyn added there was no "electric fence and military solution" to the crisis.

"It's a humanitarian crisis and it must be solved by human beings acting in a humanitarian way," he said.

Several MPs from Cameron's own Conservatives also urged the prime minister to do more.

"Our common humanity demands action at home and abroad," said Tom Tugendhat, who represents part of the Kent region where many undocumented migrants arrive on ferries or through the Channel Tunnel.

There was also criticism from different parts of Europe, with the Council of Europe's Commissioner for Human Rights, Nils Muiznieks, saying he was "seriously concerned" by Cameron's position.

"While it is true that long-term peace should be brought to Syria and other war-torn countries, it is also true that the UK has a legal and moral obligation to offer shelter to those who flee war and persecution," he said.

"The truth is that at the moment the UK is doing much less than other European countries".

Peter Sutherland, the UN special representative on international migration, told the BBC that while some countries were "massively bearing the burden" of the migrant crisis, Britain was among those that "can do more".

Güncelleme Tarihi: 03 Eylül 2015, 17:46