2 Sep 2015

Syria refugee crisis: Cameron resists calls for UK to take more asylum seekers

David Cameron has signalled he’s not about to join any Europe-wide resettlement programme for refugees. He clearly feels that these grand projects risk acting as magnets for all forms of people on the move, not just political refugees.

There’s also concern in government that signing up to a big EU scheme risks creating “more Europe” just as his renegotiation is supposed to be delivering “less Europe”.

The Times reports German impatience with the British position. Chatting to EU member state diplomats in London you get a strong impression that view is not exclusive to Germany.

Britain is not the only obstacle to EU-wide settlement plans though and if nothing beyond the last EU summit’s meagre proposals can be agreed there will be pressure to increase¬† programmes for the source countries and their neighbours.

David Cameron believes Britain has been trying to wake Europe up to immigration issues for a long time and he isn’t about to risk inflaming domestic opinion with big numbers to add to Britain’s population growth.

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Others believe he is underestimating his own electorate’s ability to discriminate between a refugee crisis and economic migration. They think the government assumes voters think simply of Calais images when they hear of new potential arrivals.

Andrew Mitchell, international development secretary under David Cameron before his brief stint as chief whip, defended the prime minister, saying that Britain had given more than the rest of Europe combined to help refugees on Syria’s borders.

Images of immense hardship and worse will add to the pressure on David Cameron to follow Germany’s lead. He sounds convinced that other approaches make more sense.

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