The 7 questions David Cameron must answer when he tells MPs how many Syrian refugees Britain will accept

The Prime Minister will set details of how the Government plans to take in "thousands more" Syrian refugees in a Commons statement

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David Cameron will announce how many Syrian refugees will be taken in by Britain in a statement to MPs today,with details surrounding his pledge to take in "thousands more" remaining anything but clear.

We have waited five days for such an announcement - for the millions of Syrians who have fled their country's civil war, time is not on their side.

These are the seven questions Mr Cameron must answer when he stands up in the House of Commons this afternoon.

1. How many?

The Government has refused to expand on the Prime Minister's promise of "thousands more" and Downing Street was yesterday guiding against reports that 15,000 would be given refuge in the UK.

It is understood the figure will be more than 10,000, but this is number would appear a drop in the ocean compared to the 15,000 that Germany welcomed in just the last two days. Francois Hollande has piled the pressure on Mr Cameron to make a meaningful pledge, announcing that his country will take in 24,000 Syrians.

Anything less than 10,000 will be seen as a disappointment from the chorus of political leaders in the UK, a growing number of Tory MPs and even his own ministers.

The Green party's demand that the UK accept 240,000 refugees may sound very ambitious, but it would still only account for a third of Germany's expected intake of 800,000 this year.

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More than 2,500 refugees have drowned after trying to cross the Mediterranean so far this year - more than 1 per cent of those who have survived the journey

2. Where?

No details have been mentioned by Downing Street as to where the "thousands" of Syrian refugees will be housed. Will these vulnerable people, who have lived through four years of war, be given access to the essential services they will be very much in need of?

Ms Cooper set out a detailed proposal for the UK to accept 10,000 refugees by housing just 10 families in each London borough.

She has met local authorities, faith groups and voluntary organisations from across the country to work out what help they can provide. Has the Government undertaken similar co-ordinated action to find the places and safety that so many Syrians need?

3. Why won't Britain support EU-wide project?

The expansion in the number of refugees Mr Cameron has promised to take in will be relocated from camps in the countries surrounding Syria and not any of the hundreds of thousands of Syrians who have made it to Europe.

It means the UK will not be helping countries such as Greece, Italy and Hungary who are forced to bear the burden of hundreds of thousands of refugees as they lie on the borders of the EU and are often the first EU country that refugees reach. 

More than 220,000 refugees entered the EU in the first six months of this year alone, with that number increasing by the day.

The out-dated Dublin Regulation requires refugees to seek asylum in the first country they reach, but Mr Guterres, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, has said: "No country can do it alone, and no country can refuse to do its part.”

The European Commission now plans to introduce a mandatory relocation scheme to spread those refugees who have already arrived in Europe across the continent, but the UK has refused to sign up to the plan.

Mr Cameron must explain why he is refusing to help those Syrian refugees and why he refuses to help countries like Hungary, Greece and Italy with the burden of housing hundreds of thousands of newcomers.

 

4. Will there be military intervention in Syria?

Will Mr Cameron step up the Government's case for launching airstrikes against Isis targets in Syria?

Several to step up its fight against Isis by targeting them in Syria as well as Iraq but any airstrikes would need the backing of Parliament.

Having suffered a defeat in the Commons over a move to bomb President Assad's regime two years ago due to Ed Miliband's Labour party voting against it, the Government does not want to suffer another embarrassing defeat.

The Prime Minister said last week that the Government would be unlikely to seek Parliamentary approval for airstrikes in Syria without a "genuine consensus" in the UK, suggesting that a victory in the Labour Party leadership election for Jeremy Corbyn, who opposes military action in Syria, could curtail any such move.

But George Osborne suggested a vote could be called even if the new Labour leader opposes military intervention by securing enough support from Labour backbench MPs to outweigh the 30 Tory MPs who are understood to oppose intervention.

5. How will extra aid money be spent?

Last week the Prime Minister promised an extra £100m of money towards the humanitarian crisis surrounding Syria, taking Britain's contribution to more than £1bn since the civil war began four years ago.

Yesterday George Osborne announced a "fundamental rethink" of Britain's international development spending, saying money would be redirected towards tackling the problems of "failed states" such as Syria.

But exactly where and what this money will be spent on remains unknown. Will it simply be providing more money to resource-starved refugee camps in neighbouring states such as Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan, or will there be a shift in strategy along the lines of creating safe havens within Syria itself?

This was an idea mooted by the former international development secretary Andrew Mitchell, who said this morning that Britain should consider sending British troops into Syria to create a UN-organised effort to set up “humanitarian safe enclaves” in the country.

6. What safeguards are in place to guard against incoming terrorists?

As Nigel Farage pointed out, the influx of thousands of refugees from Syria poses the potential danger of extremists entering Britain. What checks will the authorities undertake to ensure jihadists are not let into Britain through the back door?

Mr Cameron's statement to MPs is set to include counter-terrorism announcements, which might address these concerns.

7. Does the Prime Minister regret using the word 'swarm'?

Earlier this summer, Mr Cameron was accused of "dehumanising" refugees after he described the thousands of people trying to cross the Channel illegally from Calais as "a swarm".

Harriet Harman, Labour's acting leader, told him he "should remember he is talking about people, not insects".

The Prime Minister has yet to apologise for using such inflammatory language to describe one of the worst humanitarian crisis since the Second World War. Will he at least say he regrets using the word "swarm"?

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