The Conservatives have been accused of refusing to allow Syrian refugees to enter Britain because it would undermine their target to cut net migration to under 100,000 by next year’s election.
Senior Tory MPs believe the target explains the hard line being taken by ministers, who have rejected a plea by the UN for the UK to join 18 western countries who will between them take in 20,000 refugees who have fled Syria. One former Tory minister said: “This is all about the target. It is in danger of being missed and so nothing is being allowed to get in the way of it.”
Mark Pritchard, one of the Tory MPs calling for a U-turn by the Government, said yesterday: “This is about doing the right thing and honouring our international obligations. I hope the desire to reach our immigration target is not undermining a more holistic humanitarian response to this awful crisis”.
Yvette Cooper, the shadow Home Secretary, who has led calls for a rethink by the Government, said: “It's not about border control, it's not about immigration policy, it's about our long tradition of sanctuary.”
Conservative and Liberal Democrat peers have joined MPs from the Coalition’s two parties to urge the Government to change its mind.
Baroness Berridge, a Tory peer, said the decision to allow 1,100 Syrians asylum in Britain suggested that the Government is allowing in “some of the most able who can travel to come to our shores and not some of the most vulnerable”, who are trapped in camps in neighbouring countries.
Baroness Shirley Williams, the Lib Dems’ former leader in the Lords, praised the £600m of humanitarian aid sent by the UK but said: “The Government needs to take one more step to show that they are willing to have a limited number of Syrian families in this country as an example to the rest of the EU and the rest of the UN.”