Government's 'long overdue' Syria refugee pledge welcomed

‘This move is long overdue but of course it’s never too late to do the right thing’ - Kate Allen

Amnesty International welcomed an announcement this evening from the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg that the UK government will resettle some of the most vulnerable refugees from the Syria conflict.

The pledge, made after months of refusal by the government and an intense political debate in the country, has been welcomed by Amnesty as “an enormous relief” - with the Director of Amnesty International UK Kate Allen saying “it’s never too late to do the right thing”.

Last autumn the United Nations refugee agency set a goal of securing 30,000 resettlement places for especially vulnerable Syrian refugees across the world. Today’s announcement by the government is that it would agree to resettle some of “the most vulnerable”, with overall numbers, it said, “likely to be in the hundreds”.

Until today the government had repeatedly refused to participate in the resettlement to the UK of any Syrian refugees, instead saying that it was “fulfilling its obligations” by committing £600m in aid to help refugees in the region. However, last week the Prime Minister David Cameron announced that he was willing to “look again’ at the issue, and since then nearly 10,000 Amnesty supporters have contacted their MP asking them to vote for the resettlement move in a parliamentary vote scheduled for tomorrow.

Since violence erupted in Syria nearly three years ago, 2.3 million people have fled the country, more than half of them children. Many are now living in often very poor conditions in large refugee camps in Jordan and Lebanon.

Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:

“This move is long overdue but of course it’s never too late to do the right thing.

“The government’s line on this has been shameful, with months of refusal and weak arguments.

“It was a never a matter of choosing between helping refugees in the region or helping refugees in this country - and it’s an enormous relief that the government has finally changed its mind on this.

“For some of the most vulnerable refugees, this offer is a lifeline. It’s literally a matter of life and death.

“Today’s shift from the government is testament to people power, with constituents contacting their MPs in their thousands about this issue.”

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