Britain is not taking enough Syrian refugees, Peter Mandelson says

The peer saluted Angela Merkel's 'moral' mission

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Indy Politics

Britain has not pledged to take in enough Syrian refugees and will have to accept more, Lord Mandelson has warned.

The former Labour business secretary and EU trade commissioner said Germany, which is expected to take a million refugees this year, should not be left alone to bear the burden of taking Syrians.

He called for the creation of “safe and legal routes” for refugees to travel through and arrive in Europe – and said external border policing needed to be overhauled.

David Cameron has pledged to take 4,000 refugees from Syria a year over this parliament – though the Government has refused to take any who have arrived in Europe and will instead draw recruits from camps near the conflict zone.

“Whilst Germany has done an enormous amount and taken on a huge burden, there are responsibilities for the rest of us – we cannot create a situation where Germany alone is being largely expected to cope by itself,” Lord Mandelson told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“I’m glad that Britain has agreed to take 20,000 Syrian refugees over the next five years – I suspect that will not be enough.

“I am glad the British government is funding Turkey and other relief efforts – I suspect we will have to do more.”

He praised Angela Merkel’s “moral” mission in accepting Syrian refugees and said the answer to the refugee crisis was “not to throw up new fences and new walls”.

Britain has also refused to take part in efforts by the EU to redistribute refugees and migrants who have arrived in heavily burdened southern European countries.

Last week Martin Schulz, the Germany social democrat president of the European Parliament said Britain should take more refugees.

The vast majority of refugees from the Syria conflict are in countries neighbouring the war zone – in Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey. Overcrowded conditions and overstretched resources have however led some to make the perilous journey to Europe.

A relatively small number of people are camped in Northern France hoping to get to Britain – many of whom have connections to the UK, according to Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who has visited the camp.

Yesterday the French authorities moved to clear the largest camp, located in Calais. Riot police used tear gas and demolition equipment to evict people sleeping there.

Mr Cameron has refused to take more refugees from the camp, branding them a “bunch of migrants” at Prime Minister’s questions last month.