Britain to take in hundreds of women and children from Syria

by Reuters
Tuesday, 28 January 2014 22:00 GMT

A young Syrian refugee is pictured near jerrycans used to collect water at Al-Zaatri refugee camp in the Jordanian city of Mafraq, near the border with Syria January 23, 2014. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed

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LONDON, Jan 28 (Reuters) - Britain will take in hundreds of the most vulnerable Syrian refugees, including rape and torture victims, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said on Tuesday, announcing a softening of the government's stance.

Clegg said the government had been given United Nations backing to accept Syrian refugees on a case-by-case basis, but was stopping short of agreeing to take in a quota under a U.N. scheme to resettle 30,000 of the most vulnerable cases.

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

The three-year Syrian civil war that has killed more than 130,000 people has also pushed around 2.4 million out of Syria and into refugee camps in neighbouring states.

Clegg's announcement comes a day before the opposition Labour party is due to hold a parliamentary debate on the subject, hoping to put pressure on the government to join the U.N. scheme and fall into line with other participating Western states like France and Germany.

"I am very glad the Government has finally bowed to pressure before tomorrow's opposition vote," said Labour's home affairs spokeswoman Yvette Cooper.

Clegg said the government would focus on resettling women and girls who have experienced, or are at risk of, sexual violence. The elderly, survivors of torture and individuals with disabilities would also be treated as priority cases.

Britain says it is the second largest donor of humanitarian aid to Syria, providing 600 million pounds ($995.07 million) to date.

In the last year it has accepted around 1,500 Syrian asylum seekers who had made their way to Britain, but had previously resisted taking in refugees direct from the region. ($1 = 0.6030 British pounds) (Reporting by William James; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

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