Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron has stated his intention to accept thousands of more refugees into the United Kingdom, focusing mainly on the conflict in Syria and Britain’s role in providing aid and sanctuary to those who have fled.
Even though Mr Cameron himself admitted that British tax payers have shouldered the largest weight in terms of assisting Syrian refugees, his announcement today was a knee-jerk reaction to Europe’s migrant crisis, coming just 24 hours after newspapers splashed the image of a dead Kurdish boy washed up on the shores of a Turkish beach.
Mr Cameron opened his speech in Lisbon by talking about his plans to reform the European Union.
“Is the European Union flexible enough to respond to the different concerns of its 28 member states?” He asked, before affirming his support for the EU as a concept: “I believe the answer should be yes.”
He then went on to address the migrant crisis.
“More than 220,000 people were detected crossing the Mediteranean towards Europe,” he said, talking about how monitoring services were well aware of the problems months ago. One criticism that has been levelled at the government from both left and right is that the European Union and indeed the British government has taken the summer off while the crisis worsens.
“We know that many are Syrians fleeing the conflict that has raged across their country,” he said.
“They now face two enemies at home, Assad and ISIL.”
“As the second largest bilateral donor to the crisis we have provided £900m,” he noted. The British tax payer has afforded “shelter, food, water, and vital medical supplies,” for those in turmoil.
“No European country has done more than Britain in this regard,” he admitted.
But this still is not enough, according to the government, which up until just 24 hours ago was claiming that Britain’s role was the largest, and that the country did not need to accept more refugees for this reason.
But Cameron appears to be doing a major U-turn on the issue now.
While Britain has already accepted around 5,000 Syrian refugees over the past few years, Mr Cameron has now committed the country to receiving thousands of more.
“We will accept thousands more under these existing schemes,” he said.
“Today I can announce that we will do more providing resettlement for thousands more Syrian refugees”.
Under Mr Cameron’s plans, Britain will take refugees from camps on the Turkish-Syrian border, in order to dissuade more people trying to cross the Mediteranean and Europe.
“We will continue to save lives at sea,” he said. Noting that British ships had saved more than “6,700 people” so far during the crisis.
“Britain will act with our head and our heart,” he closed, “bringing to an end the conflict that is driving so many to flee,” he added, hinting at a UK intervention in Syria.