Britain to take in 'vulnerable' Syrian refugees

LONDON (AFP) - Britain announced on Tuesday it would take in hundreds of vulnerable Syrian refugees, targeting those most traumatised by the three-year civil war.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said refuge would be provided for female victims of sexual violence, the disabled, the elderly and torture victims.

Though there is no set quota, the overall number is likely to be in the hundreds, his office said.

Britain will work with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) on a case-by-case basis to identify those most in need.

"I am pleased to be able to announce today that the UK will be providing refuge to some of the most vulnerable Syrian refugees," Mr Clegg said in a statement.

"We are one of the most open-hearted countries in the world and I believe we have a moral responsibility to help.

"The UNHCR - which backs our new resettlement programme - has said the highest priority should go to women and girls who have experienced or are at risk of sexual violence; the elderly; survivors of torture and individuals with disabilities, so that's who we'll target.

"Sadly we cannot provide safety for everyone who needs it, but we can reach out to some of those who need it most."

London has defended its policy of focusing on giving aid rather than offering a comprehensive resettlement programme.

Britain has committed 600 million pounds (S$1.27 billion) in humanitarian aid to help alleviate the situation for displaced Syrians, making it the second-largest donor after the United States.

The number of refugees has grown fourfold in a year, from 588,000 at the end of 2012 to 2.4 million in late 2013 according to United Nations figures.

Britain has granted asylum to more than 2,000 Syrians since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began in March 2011 - 1,500 of them last year.

"We'll continue to support the peace talks currently taking place in Geneva, because only a political resolution between the Assad regime and Syrian opposition will provide a permanent end to the suffering," Mr Clegg added.

Amnesty International said last month that European Union (EU) leaders should "hang their heads in shame" at their failure to provide safe haven for Syrian refugees.

The EU has accepted 55,000 asylum seekers from Syria, according to the Amnesty report.

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