‘Britain must take more than 4,000 refugees a year’

Immigrants and refugees arrive in a ferry carrying about 2,500 migrants from Greek island Lesbos to Greece's main port near Athens. Picture: Getty Images
Immigrants and refugees arrive in a ferry carrying about 2,500 migrants from Greek island Lesbos to Greece's main port near Athens. Picture: Getty Images
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BRITAIN should take in more refugees than the 4,000 a year proposed by David Cameron and accept people already in Europe, Yvette Cooper has said.

The Labour leadership candidate and shadow home secretary said the Prime Minister’s promise to accept 20,000 Syrian refugees by May 2020 drawn from camps around the war-torn country paled in comparison to historic British efforts.

Ms Cooper said the government should speak to councils, charities and faith groups to assess how much help they are offering and then support them to deliver it. If the UK can and needs to take more refugees after that, then that should be assessed annually, she said.

Ms Cooper also demanded action to help those already in Europe, including from other conflict-ridden countries such as Iraq, Eritrea, Somalia and Libya.

She suggested the government could fund the UNHCR to do asylum assessments in under-pressure European border countries like Greece and to offer to resettle to Britain some of those who qualify for refugee status.

Opening an emergency debate on the refugee crisis, Ms Cooper said: “The Prime Minister said yesterday that he would help up to 20,000 refugees over the five-year parliament. But the crisis is now and helping 4,000 refugees this year isn’t enough.

“Four thousand compared to the 24,000 in France, hundreds of thousands in Germany, 4,000 compared to our population of 60 million, 4,000 compared to the 10,000 we helped in just nine months under the Kindertransport, 4,000 compared to the 19,000 Vietnamese boat people who fled to Britain from the Vietcong and 4,000 compared to the 24,000 Kosovans that came to Britain in the late 90s.

“We can do more than this.”

Home Secretary Theresa May said Britain was doing its part to help refugees. She said: “No-one chooses to be a refugee. The families driven out of Syria are fleeing a conflict they did nothing to start and which they have no desire to see extended.

“I know families up and down the UK listening to their stories have imagined what would we do if we were in their place, if that was our town, our home, our children.”

Mrs May said the government had been and would continue to do “everything it can” to help those in need of immediate aid.

SNP spokeswoman Joanna Cherry QC said the UK should accept its share of the refugees in Europe and coming to Europe.

She added: “The UK must now play a proportionate role with its European partners.”

The Scottish Government’s minister for Europe and international development Humza Yousaf yesterday announced the creation of an online hub to direct members of the public to information about how they can donate or register their willingness to help refugees.