Europe's leaders urged to open their hearts to Syrian refugees

Exclusive: An summit to discuss the crisis is likely to be shadowed by David Cameron's EU renegotiation demands

Laura Pitel,Andrew Grice
Wednesday 16 December 2015 21:49 GMT
Syrian refugees meet Santa at a migrant shelter in Berlin
Syrian refugees meet Santa at a migrant shelter in Berlin (Getty Images)

Europe’s leaders have been urged by the United Nations to open their hearts to Syrian refugees as conditions continue to deteriorate in the country.

An EU summit beginning in Brussels on Thursday is to discuss the refugee crisis facing the continent but it is likely to be overshadowed by talks about David Cameron’s demands to renegotiate the UK’s relationship with the bloc.

Ahead of the meeting, the UN’s humanitarian chief issued a warning of the scale of the humanitarian emergency engulfing Syria.

The Syrian refugee crisis in numbers

Stephen O’Brien acknowledged the number of refugees in Europe was “very significant” but said it paled in comparison to the millions displaced within Syria and neighbouring countries.

He told The Independent: “We have to work with where people want to be naturally, either in their own homes or – when they have fled – to be supportive in accommodating them.”

Mr Cameron told MPs that Britain had kept its promise to resettle 1,000 Syrians by Christmas as the first tranche of the 20,000 refugees to be welcomed by the year 2020.

But a survey suggests the British are less hospitable towards refugees than people in most EU countries.

The poll by ORB International found only 20 per cent of Britons would be willing to offer a refugee a spare room – the second-lowest proportion of the 14 countries surveyed.

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