British PM U-turn on Syrian asylum seekers

Friday 11/09/2015
Cameron’s change of mind had been sparked by image of Aylan Kurdi

LONDON - British Prime Minister Da­vid Cameron, days after saying a promise to “do more” for Syrian refugees did not include accept­ing additional migrants, said the United Kingdom would resettle up to 20,000 Syrians in the next five years.
Cameron said on September 2nd that “taking more and more refu­gees” was not the answer to the Syria migrant crisis. He softened his stance in Portugal two days later saying his country would “do more — providing resettlement for thousands more Syrian refugees.”
Cameron completed his turn around a few days after that.
“We are proposing that Britain should resettle up to 20,000 Syrian refugees over the rest of this parlia­ment,” Cameron told the chamber on September 7th referring to the parliamentary term which ends in 2020. “In doing so, we will con­tinue to show the world that this country is a country of extra com­passion, always standing up for our values and helping those in need.
“The whole country has been deeply moved by the heartbreak­ing scenes over the last few days. We must use our head and heart by pursuing a comprehensive ap­proach to tackle the causes,” Cam­eron said.
The Syrians are to be taken from refugee camps in Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon. “This provides refu­gees with a more direct and safe route to the UK rather than risking the hazardous journey to Europe, which has tragically cost so many lives,” the prime minister said.
Cameron’s statements of Sep­tember 2nd were strongly criti­cised and attracted accusations of “heartlessness”.
More than 340,000 people signed a petition calling for Britain to take its “fair share” of refugees fleeing war and persecution. That sparked a “#refugeeswelcome” campaign on social media.
Analysts agreed that Cameron’s change of mind had been sparked by the image of Aylan Kurdi. The 3-year-old boy’s body was found on a Turkish beach after the boat he and his family were in capsized en route from Turkey to Greece. Aylan, his brother and mother died in the incident. The image of Aylan’s body face down in the sand drew international attention to the refugees’ plight.
“As a father, I felt deeply moved by the sight of that young boy on a beach in Turkey,” Cameron said ahead of his policy shift.
“The prime minister isn’t chang­ing his argument. He still thinks opening up Europe’s borders and agreeing quotas will not solve the refugee crisis… But, as the crisis gets worse and the public and po­litical pressure grows, the prime minister does now accept that Brit­ain has a moral duty to do more,” explained BBC Deputy Political Editor James Landale.
The United Kingdom has already accepted approximately 5,000 Syr­ians as part of a resettlement pro­gramme.
“Britain has long prided itself in being a humanitarian country on the world stage and offering ref­uge to those who need it most. We need to rekindle these values once more and ensure the UK takes its fair share of refugees. We are not calling for open borders, but open hearts,” said Shuja Shafi, secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain.
Cameron was criticised for only changing his stance after the in­ternational furore surrounding Aylan’s picture. “It shouldn’t have taken a photograph to get politi­cians to start to do the right thing,” said Amnesty International UK ex­pert Steve Symonds.