David Cameron says the government has kept its promise to resettle 1,000 people fleeing war-torn Syria before Christmas.
Speaking at Prime Minister’s Questions today, Mr Cameron told the Commons: “I said that Britain would do its duty and with these thousand we have made a very good start.
“I made a promise that we would resettle 1,000 by Christmas and I can confirm today that we have met our commitment to resettle 1,000 refugees by Christmas.
“The charter flights that arrived yesterday at Stansted and Belfast mean that over 1,000 have been settled. Another charter flight is coming today.”
In September, the government made a commitment to take in up to 20,000 vulnerable people living close to the borders of Syria over the next five years.
Refugees have been arriving in the UK over the last three months and more than 50 local authorities in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales have taken a share of the 1,000 people.
The Prime Minister said the government was paying for access to housing, healthcare and education for the new arrivals.
“Britain is doing its moral duty in terms of funding the refugees and the refugee camps.” David Cameron
The UK is also spending more than £1.1bn in aid for the region and Mr Cameron said: “Britain is doing its moral duty in terms of funding the refugees and the refugee camps.”
But critics say the government could do more help people who have fled the fighting and made it to the European Union to claim asylum.
The UK has granted asylum or another form of protection through normal processes to 1,868 Syrians in the year ending September 2015.
Just over a quarter of a million Syrians claimed asylum in EU countries in the 12 months to September this year.
The UN refugee agency UNHCR says it has registered more than 4 million Syrian refugees. Around 2 million are in Turkey alone.
Lisa Doyle from the Refugee Council said: “It’s great to hear that the first 1,000 Syrian refugees have taken their first steps into their new lives in safety. Each Syrian refugee welcomed by the UK will have their life transformed, if not saved, by this programme.
Britain also needs to come forward and offer to help refugees arriving in Europe a route to safety too. Lisa Doyle
“What we now need to see is the same eagerness to welcome refugees shown by communities across the country reflected by Government policies: resettling Syrian refugees is a great first step but Britain also needs to come forward and offer to help refugees arriving in Europe a route to safety too.”
David Simmonds, chairman of the Local Government Association’s asylum, migration and refugee task group, said: “Councils have an excellent track record in supporting refugee children and their families over many years and have worked hard to ensure 1,000 Syrian refugees are settled safely in the UK before Christmas.
“Councils are helping to support some of the most vulnerable families fleeing Syria who will need ongoing support from health and social care services to cope with injuries, disabilities and to recover from the severe trauma they have experienced.”