Refugee crisis: Government to begin talks on resettlement of refugees in Britain

David Cameron has pledged to accept 20,000 refugees from Syria by 2020

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The Independent Online

The UK government's plan to accept 20,000 refugees from Syria by 2020 is due to be thrashed out by ministers and local government leaders.

David Cameron's change of heart over the refugee crisis - at the start of last week he said no more Middle Eastern refugees would be accepted - will now be looked at in detail by a committee.

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Chaired by Home Secretary Theresa May and joined by Communities and Local Government Secretary Greg Clarke, the committee will look at what it has called a “challenging” target, reported Sky News.

However, opposition politicians Yvette Cooper and Harriet Harman have criticised the plan as not generous enough, saying 4,000 refugees a year does not contribute sufficient help to other struggling EU countries.

Ms Cooper said at the start of last week that if each town hosted 10 refugee families, the nation could take in 10,000 refugees in one month - rather than that 10,000 people over two and half years.

Mrs May and Mr Clarke's committee talks will be with the Local Government Association (LGA), which is anxious to know how more housing and services for refugees will be funded.

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According to Sky News, government sources have warned the current refugee re-settlement plan is too limited to welcome Syrian refugees properly and effectively.

Officials have also said there is concern over not admitting anyone who might be a terrorist.

“We don't want to bring anyone in who might be a risk,” a source told Sky News.

At Prime Minister's Questions this week, Mr Cameron said that Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad “had to go”, the extremist militant group Isis must be beaten and “hard military force” might be necessary to intervene in Syria.

Yet the Syrian prime minister rejected a proposal by the British government to lead a transitional government before stepping down in six months, the Guardian reported yesterday.

Mr Cameron also made clear at PMQs that Syrian refugees and other refugees might be treated differently. He referred to those coming in from the eastern Mediterranean, mainly Syrians, as refugees, and said a different approach might be needed for those coming up through the central Mediterranean route, mainly Africans, whom he described as “economic migrants.”

People coming from Somalia, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Sudan are fleeing ongoing civil wars, brutal dictatorships and famine in refugee camps.

In the west, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has said he wants a total of 160,000 refugees to be relocated around the EU from Italy, Greece and Denmark.