Amnesty welcomes UK’s “long overdue” pledge to resettle vulnerable Syrian refugees

Amnesty International has welcomed the UK government’s decision to resettle some of the most vulnerable Syrian refugees saying it is “an enormous relief”.

The government had for months refused to resettle Syrian refugees.

Welcoming the change in stance on resettling Syrian refugees, Kate Allen, Director of Amnesty International UK said “it’s never too late to do the right thing”.

Last autumn the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) set a goal of securing 30,000 resettlement places for especially vulnerable Syrian refugees across the world.

The UK government said it would resettle some of “the most vulnerable”, with overall numbers “likely to be in the hundreds”.

Until two days ago, the government had repeatedly refused to participate in the resettlement to the UK of any Syrian refugees, instead saying that it was “fulfilling its obligations” by committing £600m in aid to help refugees in the region.

However, last week Prime Minister David Cameron announced that he was willing to “look again” at the issue. Since then nearly 10,000 Amnesty supporters contacted their MP asking them to vote for the resettlement move in a parliamentary vote scheduled for 29th January 2014.

The three year conflict in Syria has forced 2.3 million people to flee the country. More than half of them are children. Many are now living in often very poor conditions in large refugee camps in Jordan and Lebanon.

“This move is long overdue but of course it’s never too late to do the right thing,” Allen said. “The government’s line on this has been shameful, with months of refusal and weak arguments. It was a never a matter of choosing between helping refugees in the region or helping refugees in this country – and it’s an enormous relief that the government has finally changed its mind on this.”

The government’s offer, Allen said, “is a lifeline” for some of the most vulnerable Syrian refugees. “It’s literally a matter of life and death. This shift from the government is testament to people power, with constituents contacting their MPs in their thousands about this issue,” Allen said.

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