Government U-turn will see hundreds of Syrian refugees come to Britain
Andrew Grice has been Political Editor of The Independent since 1998. He was previously Political Editor of The Sunday Times, where he worked for 10 years, and he has been a Westminster-based journalist since 1982. His column, Inside Politics, appears in The Independent each Saturday.
Monday 27 January 2014
Hundreds of Syrian refugees will be allowed to come to Britain under plans to be announced by the Government on Wednesday.
David Cameron has overruled objections from the Home Office after coming under strong pressure from Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband to join the18 western countries providing sanctuary to some of those who have fled Syria.
The number of refugees who will enter the UK is still being hammered out inside the Coalition. An announcement will be made before the Commons debates the issue on Wednesday. Conservative ministers hope their U-turn will head off the prospect of an embarrassing defeat.
Mr Cameron still opposes the “quota” system drawn up by the United Nations, which wants Western nations to admit 30,000 Syrians between them. But the Government will pledge to work closely with aid agencies on the ground.
Last week Mark Harper, the Immigration Minister, insisted that admitting refugees would be a “token” move. But Mr Cameron signalled a change of heart two days later, saying the Government was ready to help some of the most vulnerable refugees.
Theresa May, the Home Secretary, told MPs on Monday: “This is an issue which is of concern to people across this whole House, and the Government is looking at what is the most appropriate way for us to provide support and enhance support that we are already giving.”
She was replying to Yvette Cooper, the shadow Home Secretary, who has led calls for a rethink and urged Mrs May to “sign up in principle” to the UN programme.
On Monday Mr Cameron described as “reasonable” the number of Romanians and Bulgarians who have come to Britain since they gained the right to work in the country on January 1. But he faced a growing revolt over the Immigration Bill as more than 100 Tory and Labour MPs demanded new powers for the Government to override judges by deporting suspected terrorists who claim the right to stay in the UK on family grounds. About 75 Tories are calling for new curbs on Romanians and Bulgarians.
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