PM defends support for refugees

David Cameron has defended Britain's support to Syria after a human rights charity said the Government should "hang its head in shame" for failing to resettle vulnerable refugees.

Amnesty International criticised the United Kingdom for not opening its borders to some of the millions of people displaced by continuing violence in Syria.

But the Prime Minister insisted Britain has "led the way" in providing aid to Syrians suffering under Bashar Assad's brutal regime and can be "proud" of its role.

During a visit to Stockton-on-Tees he told reporters: "I think that Britain has led the way, we are the second largest bilateral donor behind America to Syria and Syrian refugees.

"We've spent a huge amount of money making sure people have somewhere to go, making sure they have water, making sure they have food and shelter.

"Britain can be proud of the role that we've played and the money we've put in, other European countries should now do more."

Amnesty said the UK is one of a number of EU countries that have offered no resettlement or humanitarian places.

The Government says it has no plans to resettle or provide temporary protection to Syrians, but would consider individual asylum claims.

Salil Shetty, Amnesty International secretary general, said: "Across the board, European leaders should hang their heads in shame."

He said the number of Syrians the EU is prepared to resettle is "truly pitiful".

"The EU has miserably failed to play its part in providing a safe haven to the refugees who have lost all but their lives. The EU must open its borders, provide safe passage and halt these deplorable human rights violations."

Earlier this week International Development Secretary Justine Greening said Britain would provide a further £60 million to help Syrian refugees get through the third winter of fighting.

Ms Greening said the cash will go towards winter tents, shelter materials, warm clothing and heaters for thousands of families, as well as clean water, food, heating fuel and healthcare for refugees in Syria and neighbouring countries.

She warned of fears that this will be "the worst winter yet" because of severe weather conditions and crowded refugee camps susceptible to rapid spread of life-threatening illnesses such as pneumonia.

The UK has committed £500 million to help those affected by the Syrian conflict - Britain's largest ever response to a humanitarian crisis.

Amnesty International said 55,000 refugees from Syria have managed to reach an EU country and claim asylum but many risk their lives to do so.

So far, 10 member states have together offered 12,000 humanitarian places to those affected by the crisis - 0.5% of the 2.3 million people who have fled Syria.

Germany has been the most generous, according to the charity, pledging to take 10,000 refugees.

France has offered just 500 places and Spain 30.

A Home Office spokesman said: "The UK has no plans to resettle or provide temporary protection to Syrians. Instead, we are giving as much help as possible to people in the region.

"We are one of the highest international donors to the Syrian relief effort - our £500 million pledged so far is more than the other EU member states combined."

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