Government refuses to reveal how many Syrians allowed into UK, as Britain's response to refugee crisis blasted by former judges

Authorities should show 'full transparency' following David Cameron's pledge to resettle 20,000 more people from war-torn country

Samuel Osborne,Richard Williams
Monday 12 October 2015 11:28
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A Syrian refugee holds her child as she is comforted by a volunteer following her arrival on an overcrowded dinghy on the Greek island of Lesbos
A Syrian refugee holds her child as she is comforted by a volunteer following her arrival on an overcrowded dinghy on the Greek island of Lesbos

The Home Office has refused to disclose how many Syrians have been allowed into Britain - as leading former judges and lawyers said the Government was not accepting enough refugees.

In an open letter, the legal professionals say David Cameron's promise to resettle an extra 20,000 people fleeing the war-torn country over five years is not enough.

One retired judge said the UK could cope with taking in 75,000 a year, the BBC reports, while the letter called for an "urgent, humane and effective government response to the refugee crisis".

They suggested the establishment of safe, legal routes into the EU.

Such routes would include "humanitarian visas" so refugees would not have to undertake dangerous journeys to reach Europe.

Refugees are held back by Slovenian riot police at the border in the small Croatian village of Harmica

The Prime Minister's pledge on 7 September came after hundreds of thousands of people backed The Independent's campaign calling for the UK to do its fair share to help relieve the crisis affecting millions on the continent.

But asked to disclose how many Syrians have been allowed to resettle in Britain since Mr Cameron's promise, the Home Office refused to reveal the figures.

Despite the change in Britain’s attitude to refugees, the Government insists it will not reveal how many of the 20,000 have been resettled until the next quarterly asylum statistics are published at the end of November.

The refusal was criticised by former Labour shadow Home Secretary, Yvette Cooper, who said the public had a right to know.

“The huge outpouring of public sympathy towards the plight of refugees fleeing terrible violence, conflict and persecution forced the Prime Minister to change his position and agree that Britain will take 4,000 refugees a year,” she told The Independent.

“It’s not enough – but it is a start. We now need full details of how many refugees have already arrived in our country and how many more will be arriving before the end of the year as winter sets in.

“The hundreds of thousands of people who signed petitions have donated clothes, tents and food and even offered spaces in their own home will want to know the Government is delivering on its plan, so full transparency is needed.”

The Home Office said the 20,000 Syrians referred to by the Prime Minister would be resettled by 2020 through its Vulnerable Persons Resettlement (VPR) scheme.

A spokesperson for the Home Office has said the UK has granted asylum to more than 5,000 Syrians since the conflict began, and that the VPR scheme has successfully integrated more than 200 vulnerable people.

“We are working hard to bring in greater numbers of people who desperately need our assistance under the expanded scheme,” the spokesperson said.

“Preparations are being made for a steady stream of arrivals in manageable numbers following local authority places being secured."The Home Office said it will provide an update on the number of Syrians who have arrived on 26 November, when it next publishes its asylum statistics.

As European leaders attempt to deal with the flow of refugees and help those in need, the German government in particular has been praised for pledging to take on at least 800,000 asylum seekers this year - a figure which could rise to 1 million.

Refugees from Syria have also fled to neighbouring countries, with 1.8 million entering Turkey, 1 million going to Lebanon, and 600,000 to Jordan.

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