syria refugees.jpg
Photograph: EPA/YOUSSEF BADAWI

Britain should help thousands of unaccompanied Syrian children stranded in Europe, refugee groups urged Thursday as they said a government plan to resettle several hundred children from refugee camps on Syria's borders did not go far enough.

The government said it has asked the UN refugee agency "to identify exceptional cases of unaccompanied children whose needs cannot be met in the region and whose best interests would be met through protection in the UK."

The London-based Refugee Council welcomed the resettlement of children from refugee camps as a "step forward," but said it remained "concerned that the government is still refusing to help share responsibility for protecting the men, women and children arriving on Europe's shores."

It accused the government of "a deliberate failure to acknowledge the fact that these refugees [in Europe] are fleeing the same atrocities as those the government is choosing to resettle."

The government said it expected the UNHCR to "identify several hundred children who will be resettled here," adding that the move will add to an earlier commitment to resettle 20,000 Syrians from refugee camps by 2020.

"We have asked the UNHCR to make an assessment of the numbers and needs of unaccompanied children in conflict regions and advise on when it is in the best interests of the child to be resettled in the UK and how that process should be managed," Minister of State for Immigration James Brokenshire told parliament.

In a separate move, the government's development agency will use a 10-million-pound (14-million-dollar) fund to support vulnerable refugee children in Europe.

But Sanj Srikanthan, policy director for the International Rescue Committee, called for "particular attention paid to the many thousands of unaccompanied young refugee children already in Europe, who have fled their homeland for sanctuary and are in need of immediate assistance."

"Children who are travelling alone in Europe are vulnerable to succumbing to freezing temperatures, abuse and exploitation," said Lisa Doyle, head of advocacy for the Refugee Council.

"It's vital the government acts as quickly as possible to bring families together in order to prevent the unnecessary risk and hardship experienced by those currently forced to make treacherous journeys to reach their loved ones," Doyle said.

London-based Save the Children has urged Prime Minister David Cameron to accept 3,000 children "as Britain's fair share of the estimated 26,000 children who arrived in Europe in 2015 without any family."

Speaking in parliament on Wednesday, Cameron said he remained opposed to the view that should "opt into the EU relocation and resettlement schemes."

Opposition Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron said Cameron was "heartless and foolish" for refusing to take 3,000 of the children stranded in Europe.

Cameron was also criticized by political opponents on Wednesday after he referred in parliament to asylum seekers at a camp in the French port of Calais as "a bunch of migrants."

"David Cameron must stop using this dehumanizing language, and instead show the political leadership required to ensure refugees can reach the UK safely to be reunited with their loved ones," Refugee Action said.

Latest news

EU calls on Germany to reduce large current account surplus

The European Commission on Wednesday called on Germany, the bloc's biggest economy, to reduce its large current account surplus and focus on boosting domestic consumption.

Germans' demand for Croatian destinations on steady rise

Bookings for Croatia's destinations in some regions of Bavaria have been rising and some statistics show a 30% increase year-on-year, according to the preliminary information from the "f.re.e." fair for leisure and travel, which opened in Munich on Wednesday and runs through Sunday.

Bosnia's counsel travels to The Hague to apply for review of genocide judgement against Serbia

Bosnia and Herzegovina's legal representative before the International Court of Justice (ICJ), Sakib Softic, left for The Hague on Wednesday and is expected to submit a request on Friday for a review of an ICJ judgement delivered in 2007 acquitting the former Social Republic of Yugoslavia, present-day Serbia as its successor, of genocide in Srebrenica.

Serbian, Slovenian FMs says two countries' relations good, economic cooperation on rise

Relations between Slovenia and Serbia are good, the two countries have a number of common interests and their trade, which last year amounted to EUR 1 billion, is on the rise, Slovenian and Serbian Foreign Minister Karl Erjavec and Ivica Dacic respectively, said after their talks in Ljubljana on Wednesday.

Congo to investigate alleged massacre by army

The Congolese government Wednesday pledged to investigate an alleged massacre of unarmed men and women by the army, after initially dismissing a video claiming to show it as a fake.

Global treaty to remove customs bureaucracy comes into force

An international pact that could boost global trade by up to 1 trillion dollars per year entered into force on Wednesday, the World Trade Organization (WTO) announced in Geneva.

EU seeks to fine Austria for misrepresenting debt data

The European Commission was seeking to slap a fine of close to 30 million euros (31.5 million dollars) on Austria after one of its states reported incorrect debt data to the EU's statistical office, EU Commissioner Marianne Thyssen said Wednesday.

Merkel cabinet OKs new rules easing deportation of asylum seekers

The cabinet of German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday agreed a package of measures to ease the deportation of criminal asylum seekers.

Croatian crime victims still not exercising rights enjoyed by victims in other EU countries

Victims of crime in Croatia still cannot exercise the rights exercised by victims of crime in other EU member-countries, and the biggest problem is that the national legislation still does not incorporate the EU directive on the protection of victims of crime, heard a conference held in Zagreb on Wednesday on the occasion of the European Day for Victims of Crime.

Russia condemns 'fake' Western news in hall of shame on state website

Russia's Foreign Ministry introduced a new section of its website on Wednesday to condemn Western news reports with a big red stamp: "FAKE."

Report: Le Pen aides held for questioning on European Parliament jobs

Two key aides to Marine Le Pen, the far-right candidate for the French presidency, have been held for questioning by police, the Agence France Presse news agency reported on Wednesday.

More than 400 exhibitors gather for boat, gastronomy shows in Zagreb

Slightly more than 400 exhibitors will present their products and services at the 26th International Boat Show and the 9th international gastronomy, hotel and catering equipment and catering show Hotel&Gastroteh, which opened at the Zagreb Trade Fair Centre on Wednesday.