William Hague, the minister for foreign affairs, has confirmed the government is working on a plan to accept “particularly vulnerable” refugees from Syria.
The government had been resisting the idea of accepting refugees for months, but the senior Conservative party MP said the government was now actively considering which Syrian people should be allowed to come to Britain. It comes after Prime Minister, David Cameron, signalled a partial retreat over the issue under pressure from a cross-party group of politicians, saying he was now “open-minded” about accepting the injured, particularly children.
Speaking on BBC TV’s Andrew Marr (politics) Show, Hague revealed that plans were under way to bring over some refugees, but stressed the main priority would be providing aid to the region.
“The home secretary (minister for domestic affairs) is working on that, and will have more to say about that in the coming days,” he said. “I think there is a case for particularly helping people who are particularly vulnerable. I think we have to look at it in that way.”
Asked about eligibility, he said: “Well, that’s what the home secretary is working on, how we try to help people who actually might need to get away from that region altogether, who are particularly vulnerable to violence, for instance.
“This is still being worked on, and so the prime minister and the home secretary will discuss that further, but we’re looking at such a scheme. I do want to emphasise though that whatever we can do on that, our main effort to help people will remain what we do out there, where British aid is helping a third of a million people with food every day; a million with drinking water; a third of a million a month with medical consultations, and you can only do that out there in the region. That’s got to remain our main effort.”
Hague also warned that the conflict was posing a serious danger to Britain’s national security. “The situation affects our own national security and the longer it goes on, the greater these dangers are. That’s why promoting a political solution there is so important, but it is a serious danger.
“People need to know, first of all, they should not be travelling to Syria under any circumstances, and secondly, that we are vigilant about this and that the home secretary has the power to remove the passport of someone who we think is going to do that; to cancel the leave to remain in this country of people who might go and come between Britain and Syria; so we are on the lookout for these people.”
Opposition Labour party leader, Ed Miliband, urged the prime minister to address the Syrian refugee crisis last week, asking why the UK had not signed up to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) sanctuary programme on refugees.
Labour said the scheme overall was designed to find sanctuary for 30,000 people and Britain would be required to take just a few hundred.