Cameron 'moved' by photo, but won't make refugee promise

2015-09-03 17:19

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London - Prime Minister David Cameron on Thursday said he was "deeply moved" by photographs of a 3-year-old Syrian boy who drowned off Turkey, but declined to yield to growing pressure to commit Britain to taking more refugees.

"As a father, I felt deeply moved," Cameron said when asked about the photographs, which have prompted an outcry against the government's refusal to accept more refugees.

"Britain is a moral nation and we will fulfil our moral responsibilities," he said.

But when pressed repeatedly by a BBC interviewer to make a clear commitment to taking more refugees, Cameron declined to do so, saying only that "we will do more".

"There isn't a solution that's simply about taking [more] people," Cameron said.

"We've been taking thousands of refugees ... We keep it under review," he said.

Members of parliament from Cameron's Conservative Party joined opposition politicians and a UN official in calling for Britain to take more refugees from Syria and other conflict-torn nations.

Cameron had insisted earlier that little can be achieved "simply by taking more and more refugees", despite a warning from Germany that his position could strain relations with other EU nations.

Tom Tugendhat, a Conservative lawmaker from the south-eastern county of Kent, said he had spoken to many constituents "who want us to do more".

"Our common humanity demands action at home and abroad," Tugendhat said.

Most British newspapers featured front-page photographs on Thursday of the toddler identified as 3-year-old Alan al-Kurdi, who drowned after falling from a dinghy off the coast of Turkey.

The Independent said it used the picture to "emphasise the reality of the desperate situation facing many refugees".


It was "time David Cameron found his humanity", the newspaper said.

Nadhim Zahawi, another Conservative close to Cameron, said the photographs "should make us all ashamed".

"We are nothing without compassion," Zahawi said on Twitter.

The government "should be looking in the region of thousands rather than hundreds" for the number of Syrian refugees it accepts, David Burrowes, a Conservative lawmaker in London, told the Telegraph.

The UN special representative on international migration, Peter Sutherland, said Britain was among several EU nations that "can do more" to help the refugees while others were "massively bearing the burden."

Yvette Cooper, a leadership candidate for the opposition Labour Party, has called for Britain to accept at least 10 000 more refugees from Syria and other conflict-hit nations.

Last year, 2 081 Syrians applied for asylum in Britain, up from 1 648 in 2013, according to the UK Refugee Council.

Of 1 387 Syrian applicants whose cases decided were last year, 1 180 people were granted refugee status, the council reported.

It said Britain accepted 143 refugees last year through the new Syrian Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme, plus 644 refugees of various nationalities via the UN's Gateway and Mandate programmes.

Read more on:    david cameron  |  uk  |  migrants

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