6 Sep 2015

Sturgeon and Labour candidates ‘would house refugees’

Three Labour leadership candidates and Nicola Sturgeon say they would allow Syrian refugees to live in their home, after the Finnish PM said on Saturday he would open up his country house.

Labour leadership candidates Andy Burnham and Jeremy Corbyn told Channel 4 News that they would be willing take in a family of Syrian refugees.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told Sky News that she would be willing to host a family of Syrian refugees, although said she didn’t want to “get into a gimmicky conversation…this is a serious issue” when asked how many she would be willing to house.

Asked if she would be prepared to house a Syrian family, Yvette Cooper told Sky News: “If that’s what it took and that’s what was needed, of course. Lots of people would be.”

The Pope called on “every” parish, religious community, and sanctuary in Europe to take in one migrant family. The Vatican said it would take in two families.

On Saturday, Channel 4 News approached Downing Street to ask if British Prime Minister David Cameron would be willing to house refugees in his second home.
A spokesperson at Number 10 declined to comment and referred Channel 4 News to Mr Cameron’s statement on Friday, where he said that Britain would take “thousands more” refugees from Syria.

Speaking to state television on Saturday, Finnish Prime Minister Juha Sipila said that his country home, situated north of the capital Helsinki, was “not being used much at the moment.”

“I hope this becomes some kind of people’s movement that will inspire many others to shoulder part of the burden in this refugee housing crisis.

“We should all take a look in the mirror and ask how we can help,” Sipila told national broadcaster YLE.

Foreign secretary

Channel 4 News asked the Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond, whether he would open up his official residence of Chevening, which has 115 rooms. A foreign office spokesperson also referred Channel 4 News to the prime minister’s statement.

Channel 4 News understands that Labour leadership candidate Liz Kendall rents a flat and has no room to house refugees. The Leicester West MP said: “This statement from the Finnish PM reflects the horror and frustration there has been in response to the refugee crisis.

“In Britain we’ve got a Prime Minister who has shown himself to be both heartless and powerless to act.”

Finland’s government doubled its estimate for the number of asylum seekers in the country this year up to 30,000.

More than 350,000 refugees and migrants have reached the borders of the Europe Union this year.

Aid budget

Outlining the government’s approach towards dealing with the crisis, Chancellor George Osborne told the BBC that Britain’s international aid budget would be used to help local authorities cover the costs of housing refugees.

“The foreign aid budget that we have can provide the support for the first year for these refugees, to help the local councils with things like housing costs. We will deploy the foreign aid budget to help with the costs of these refugees,” Mr Osborne said.

“We have got a £12 billion aid budget, we spend £250 million on those countries like Syria, Jordan and Turkey. We have got to have a fundamental re-think of how we are using this budget.

“This budget is tied to our GDP, our GDP is going up, let’s use the additional money very specifically on the challenges that Britain faces, one of which is this crisis on our doorstep.”