Cameron backtracks on refusal to resettle unaccompanied Syrian children

Cameron backtracks on refusal to resettle unaccompanied Syrian children
Britain's government bows to pressure and agrees to take in unaccompanied children from Syria who have made their way to Europe.
2 min read

Prime Minister David Cameron has said he will let more unaccompanied Syrian children come to Britain, despite initially refusing to do so, after a campaign led by a peer who fled the Nazis in the 1930s.

The U-turn came as the government tries to head off what had been looking like a probable defeat in a parliamentary vote next week on the issue of Syrian minors.

"We're going to go round the local authorities and see what more we can do," Cameron said during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons.

"What I don't want us to do is to take steps that will encourage people to make this dangerous journey" from Syria to Europe, he added.

Cameron did not specify how many extra children would be brought to Britain. A senior Downing Street source speaking anonymously to reporters said it would be "more than just tens".

The government in a statement said unaccompanied asylum-seekers "will be resettled from Greece, Italy and France" but that only people who had registered before the EU migrant deal with Turkey came into force on March 20 would be accepted.

Cameron has come under increasing pressure in recent days from all parties, including his own Conservatives, to take in more Syrian children fleeing conflict and travelling without an adult responsible for them.

Alf Dubs, a member of the House of Lords for the main opposition Labour party, drew wide support for his amendment to the Immigration Bill currently before parliament, which urges the government to settle 3,000 children from camps in Europe.

Dubs came to Britain from Czechoslovakia in 1939 aged six fleeing the Nazis as part of a scheme known as the Kindertransport, in which hundreds of Jewish children were rescued.

Dubs, who later revised his amendment to remove reference to a specific number, said Cameron's announcement would "help ease the plight of some of the unaccompanied child refugees in Europe."

"I trust the prime minister will be true to his word and move swiftly to ensure the Home Office works closely with local authorities to find foster families to give these young people a stable and secure home," he added.

Britain has not joined European Union schemes for the relocation and resettlement of migrants for Syria.

Instead, it is sending aid worth £2.3 billion (2.9 billion euros, $3.3 billion) to Syria and said last year it was taking 20,000 refugees from camps in the region over five years.