Charities tell David Cameron the UK's response to the refugee crisis is 'clearly inadequate'

In a joint letter to the Prime Minister, nearly 30 charities call for safe and legal routes into Europe to be made available, and for the UK to take in more refugees

David Cameron
David Cameron

In a letter to the Prime Minister, the heads of almost 30 charities have criticised the UK’s response to the Syrian refugee crisis as "clearly inadequate" and have called on him to do more to alleviate the situation.

In a joint letter to Downing Street, the group, which includes the chief executives of charities such as Oxfam, Amnesty International and the Refugee Council, as well as the umbrella group Bond, say the UK could and should be doing more to alleviate the crisis.

The letter says 3,695 people drowned attempting to cross the Mediterranean to Europe last year, with many of them fleeing Islamic State violence and civil war in Syria and Iraq.

It calls for safe and legal routes into and across Europe to be made available and for the UK to take in a "fair and proportionate share of refugees".

The letter asks the Prime Minister "to approach this new year with new resolve to address the appalling plight of refugees in Europe".

It says: "Last year’s announcement that the UK will resettle 20,000 Syrian refugees over five years was a welcome first step, but given the numbers of people searching for safety across the globe, this response is clearly inadequate: it is too slow, too low and too narrow.

"The UK can and should be doing much more to ensure that refugees are not compelled to take life-threatening journeys or forced into smugglers’ hands."

Sanj Srikanthan, director of policy and practice at the International Rescue Committee, one of the charities that drafted the letter, said it was "a clear signal that the government is burying its head in the sand" about the scale of the crisis.

"The government needs to wake up to the scale of the challenge we’re facing, and recognise that resettling 4,000 refugees a year – only six people per parliamentary constituency – is woefully inadequate," he said.

"We hope this letter prompts the government to resettle a more proportionate number of refugees, reflecting the UK population and our proud history of helping refugees in need."

In a statement, Penny Lawrence, deputy chief executive of Oxfam, described the UK’s response as "lacklustre at best, mean-spirited at worst".

Kate Allen, director of Amnesty International UK, said in a statement: "While David Cameron has grimly clung on to the idea that the UK government’s approach to the refugee crisis is the right one, thousands have drowned in the Mediterranean and Aegean."

She warned that thousands more would die if he did not support the measures in the letter.

Maurice Wren, chief executive of the Refugee Council, called on Cameron to "open his heart and show true statesmanship" by accepting more refugees.

The letter also calls for fair and thorough procedures to determine whether people seeking protection are eligible for it.

A spokesman for Downing Street told Third Sector it was unable to comment before our publication deadline, but a government spokesperson told The Guardian that the government had met its target of welcoming 1,000 refugees before Christmas: "The UK is also playing a leading role providing life-saving aid to those most in need, both in the Syrian region, where we have pledged more than £1.1bn in humanitarian aid, and in Europe. It is essential that we focus our support where we can make the biggest impact."

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