David Cameron must “break the deadlock” between government and local councils to ensure 1,000 of the most vulnerable Syrian refugees are settled before freezing winter temperatures take their toll on refugee camps, campaigners have warned.
Volunteers and activists from Citizens UK, Avaaz and 38 Degrees will be joined by Yvette Cooper MP, SNP Westminster leader Angus Robertson, Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron and a host of faith leaders to lay wreaths outside parliament on Tuesday evening in a service of remembrance for six children who died in Syrian refugee camps due to freezing temperature last winter.
They will say that the government’s offer last month to resettle 20,000 refugees over five years is not enough, and call for the figure to be boosted to 50,000 over five years with 1,000 of the most vulnerable refugees arriving in the three months.
Citizens UK has already signed up 37 councils to commit to resettling at least 50 refugees each, along with more than 700 private landlords, who have registered to provide quality housing to new arrivals. It is also setting up collection point for warm clothes to be sent to refugee camps in the region, more than £3.5m has been committed by British universities, including LSE, Sussex, Warwick, York, SOAS and Edinburgh to enable young Syrians, to fund scholarship places for nearly 150 refugees. However the Home Office is facing increasing political pressure over the speed at which refugees are being resettled, councils are calling for more funding and the Home Office has refused to say how many refugees have arrived in the UK since the government announced 20,000 refugees would be resettled.
Zrinka Bralo, Citizens UK leader said: "We welcomed the announcement from the Prime Minister that he would significantly increase the number of refugees that the UK resettles. However the timescales just don't add up. The crisis is happening now, so we need significant action in 2015, not in two, three or five years' time. That's simply too late for the children who having nothing but a sheet separating them from freezing temperatures.”
Former shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper will use the vigil to lambast the government’s response to the refugee crisis as “far too weak”.
The former Labour leadership candidate, who is in the process of setting up a cross-party refugee taskforce, will call on government to remove refuges from its migration target, reveal how many refugees have come to Britain in the month since the Prime Minister announced that we would accept 4,000 each year.
She said: "The refugee crisis is getting worse not better, but the British Government's response is still far too weak. Winter is looming and far more needs to be done to help thousands of vulnerable families who have no home to go to and who fall prey to smuggling gangs."
The call for Britain to do more to resettle Syrian refugees came as the new Immigration Bill was due to be debated in the House of Commons on Tuesday.
Liberal Democrat leader Mr Farron told The Independent: “Whilst our international partners are trying to find solutions to the biggest humanitarian crisis of our time Theresa May instead is focusing her energy on pushing through an Immigration Bill that ignores the issues and postures rather than problem solves."
The attacks from Labour and the Liberal Democrats come after some of the UK’s top former judges and lawyers criticised the government’s response to the refugees crisis. Lord Phillips, former UK Supreme court head, and Lord MacDonald, ex-director of public prosecutions, are among 300 legal figures to sign an open letter calling on the government to do more.
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