THE European migration crisis will not be solved simply by Britain taking in more refugees, David Cameron insisted yesterday.
The Prime Minister said the most important solution is to bring peace and stability to the Middle East and stressed the UK has taken a number of asylum seekers from Syria.
He was speaking after a spokesman for German chancellor Angela Merkel’s CDU/CSU alliance said Britain’s failure to accept more refugees could hurt Mr Cameron’s plans to renegotiate the UK’s relationship with the European Union.
Labour leadership candidate Yvette Cooper wants the UK to take in 10,000 more refugees, a stance backed by all of her rivals.
Mr Cameron said: “We have taken a number of genuine asylum seekers from Syrian refugee camps and we keep that under review, but we think the most important thing is to try to bring peace and stability to that part of the world.
“I don’t think there is an answer that can be achieved simply by taking more and more refugees.”
Mr Cameron said Britain was focusing on stabilising countries where migrants and refugees come from and highlighted action the government is taking to improve security at the French port of Calais.
He said: “We are taking action right across the board, helping countries from which these people are coming, stabilising them and trying to make sure there are worthwhile jobs and stronger economies there.
“We are obviously taking action at Calais and the Channel – there’s more that we need to do and we are working together with our European partners as well. These are big challenges but we will meet them.”
Ms Cooper said Britain must stop turning its back on refugees attempting to flee the war in Syria.
The shadow home secretary said: “When mothers are desperately trying to stop their babies from drowning when their boat has capsized, when people are being left to suffocate in the backs of lorries by evil gangs of traffickers and when children’s bodies are being washed to shore, Britain needs to act.
“It is heartbreaking what is happening on our continent. We cannot keep turning our backs on this. We can – and must – do more. If every area in the UK took just ten families, we could offer sanctuary to 10,000 refugees. Let’s not look back with shame at our inaction.”
Peter Ammon, the German ambassador to the UK, said Germany expected “all partners” to “make their best efforts to contribute to the solution”.
Referring to Mrs Merkel’s comments about the need for the burden to be shared around the European Union, he told the media: “I think she has everybody in her sights. This is a humanitarian challenge to all of Europe. Europe has a tradition to take in refugees.
“Britain has taken in refugees for centuries and I think not to your disadvantage and I think we will expect that all partners will make their best efforts to contribute to the solution of this problem.”
Asked how many refugees Britain should take in, he said: “This is something that has to be discussed among the members . . . Germany has now taken in 43 per cent of all refugees; we think that this is too high.”
Meanwhile, former foreign secretary David Miliband has called for more “burden sharing” and insisted the UN rules that were drawn up after Britain took in thousands of refugees fleeing the Nazis should now apply to Africans and Asians.
The former Labour MP, who now heads the International Rescue Committee aiding those fleeing conflict, said: “Britain was at the forefront of writing the conventions and protocols that established legal rights for refugees. The reasons we did so were good in the the 40s and 50s and they are good today. What applied to Europeans then should apply to Africans and Asians today. We cannot say UN conventions apply to one group of people and not to others.”
He added: “There needs to be some burden-sharing . . . bigger countries taking more people than smaller countries, richer countries taking more people than poorer countries. Historically the US has taken about 50 per cent of the world’s refugees. It would certainly help the European debate if the Americans were seen to be stepping up.”
Mr Miliband also suggested the “incorrect” description of refugees as “migrants” implies that people are leaving their countries in search of a better life rather than being forced to flee from bombs and bullets.