United Nations tells UK to double the number of refugees it takes in

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The United Nations has urged the UK to “step up” and double the number of refugees it takes.

A senior official at the UN’s refugee agency said he hopes the UK will start accepting 10,000 refugees or more, effectively doubling its current rate, after 2020..

Volker Turk, assistant commissioner at the UN High Commission for Refugees, said there was a need for countries around the world to address the crisis and help people fleeing the world’s trouble spots.

The Government has committed to take in 20,000 refugees by 2020 under a scheme set up to cover people fleeing the Syrian conflict, with 5,453 granted humanitarian protection under the programme in the year ending March 2017, and 3,000 vulnerable children and family members.

Solidarity: Thousands took to the streets of London to support refugees last year Twitter/@helen_undy (Twitter/@helen_undy)

But Mr Turk, who was in London for talks with ministers, said he hoped the Government’s response would be “significantly” expanded after 2020: “It would be a doubling.”

Mr Turk said he wanted to see “significant numbers” of refugees offered the chance of a new life in the UK after 2020, with a resettlement programme open to people around the world, not just Syria.

After his talks with ministers he said: “We had good discussions about possible ideas about what can be done post-2020 and the Government is open to discussing this and to learn the lessons from what is ongoing at the moment.

“We hope very much that there will be a regular resettlement programme by Britain past 2020 in significant numbers.”

Rally: Thousands of people showed their support on the march to Parliament Square (Twitter/@josephwillits)

He added: “It would be a step change, it would not just be related to Syria. It would look at where the urgent situations are, to have a certain flexibility in responding to them.

“I think we have to be very honest about the need for countries to contribute and to step up.”

Mr Turk praised the response of communities which had already received refugees and said some rural areas had been “revived” by the new arrivals.

He said he was “very encouraged by the reaction in Britain, by communities at grassroots level”.

“I’m so amazed when I hear about rural areas in Britain that actually they are so happy that people come to them and it almost revives parts of Britain,” he said.

A “whole of society” approach was needed to address the challenges, he said.

“It’s about attitudes, it’s about engagement, it’s about understanding towards the plight of people who end up – because of conflict, because of war, because of persecution – in a situation of distress.

“Britain has a long history of asylum and sanctuary. That tradition is absolutely key and it will involve whole communities.”

Asked if some of the rhetoric used by some politicians was unhelpful, he said: “In the industrialised world more generally, sometimes what we see and what we notice is that emotionally-charged subjects are used for short-term political games.

“In some ways, from the perspective of fairness, from the perspective of the rule of law, from the perspective of how societies have to deal with phenomena that exist, that’s irresponsible.”

He added: “I think it’s an appeal to everyone who works in this area to come back to this voice of reason within, sometimes, very high emotions.”

Additional reporting by Press Association

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