Refugee crisis: Local councils to offer sanctuary to Syrians fleeing conflict, says Yvette Cooper

At least 40 councils have responded to request by shadow home secretary that they each accept 10 families fleeing war-ravaged Syria

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The Independent Online

At least 40 local councils are ready to offer sanctuary to refugees fleeing conflict in Syria, according to Labour leadership hopeful Yvette Cooper.

Ms Cooper, who is shadow home secretary, had called on councils to each accept 10 families. The 40 responded within 24 hours, she said.

"There is a real determination and rising sense of moral purpose across Britain to help desperate families. But now the prime minister needs to match it," she said.

The UK is expected to take in "thousands more" Syrian refugees following an announcement by Prime Minister David Cameron.

Mr Cameron said the UK would act with "our head and our heart" with a major expansion of an existing programme to resettle vulnerable refugees from the camps bordering Syria.

But the Local Government Association (LGA) warned that Whitehall would need to provide additional funding.

David Simmonds, from the LGA's asylum, refugee and migrant task force, said councils in England were currently taking 2,000 unaccompanied refugee children a year at a cost of £50,000 for each child.

A further £150 million-a-year was being spent on destitute families who had had their asylum applications turned down but who remained in the UK.

In an interview with the Today programme on BBC Radio 4 he said: "If we are going to scale those numbers up significantly we need to make sure that those kinds of resources are available to England's councils and also other public services to make sure that we have what is required in terms of school places, hospital beds, GPs that sort of thing."

The exact number of refugees the UK will accept has not yet been decided, but Mr Cameron made clear they would come from camps bordering Syria rather than from among those already crossing Europe.

(Additional reporting by agencies)

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