LISBON (AFP) - Britain will take in thousands more Syrian refugees, Prime Minister David Cameron said Friday amid growing pressure at home and abroad to address the crisis.
“Given the scale of the crisis and the suffering of the people, I can announce today that we will do more, and will welcome thousands more Syrian refugees under existing schemes which we’ll keep under review,” he told reporters in Lisbon.
“Britain will act with our head and our heart, providing refuge for those in need while working on a long term solution to the Syria crisis,” he added.
Cameron has faced mounting pressure to accept a greater share of Syrian refugees, especially after the publication of images of a three-year-old Syrian toddler who was found dead on a Turkish beach.
A petition to parliament urging Britain to accept more refugees has garnered nearly 250,000 signatures, while campaign group Avaaz said that 2,000 Britons had volunteered to host refugee families.
Several editorials harked back to the times when Britain accepted huge numbers of refugees before and after World War II, and around the Balkan Wars.
Britain has accepted 216 Syrian refugees under a special government scheme over the past year and around 5,000 Syrians have been granted asylum since the conflict there broke out in 2011 – far fewer than countries like France, Germany and Sweden.
More than four million Syrians have fled the war.
Britain has also opted out of a quota system for relocating asylum seekers within the European Union despite growing calls in the EU for fairer distribution.