I fully understand concerns on this matter, and I am grateful to all who have contacted and offered their support and services in Taunton Deane.
Recent photos are clearly shocking and harrowing. This is why we continue to be at the forefront of the international response to the humanitarian crisis in Syria – including as the second biggest bilateral donor of humanitarian aid, having already pledged £1 billion.
I know that Britain is a moral nation and we will fulfil our moral responsibilities. That is why we sent the Royal Navy to the Mediterranean, saving thousands of lives; why we meet our commitment to spend 0.7 per cent of our economy on aid; why Britain is the second biggest bilateral donor in the world to Syrian refugee camps; and why since the crisis began we have granted asylum to nearly 5,000 Syrians and their dependents through normal procedures.
As you will know, the Vulnerable Persons Relocations scheme (VPRS) is already up and running. This scheme will make a real difference to the lives of some of the most vulnerable Syrians by giving them protection and support in the UK. I was pleased that the Prime Minister personally reassured me that this scheme would prioritise orphans and vulnerable children.
But we can do more. I am glad that the Prime Minister has proposed that Britain should resettle up to 20,000 Syrian refugees over the next five years. These refugees will come straight from the camps in the Middle East to discourage refugees from taking the perilous journey across the Mediterranean. To support our local communities we will use the foreign aid budget to finance these refugees for the first year and help local councils with things like housing. In the longer term, we will continue to direct our additional aid spending to these failed states and to the refugee crisis.
Simply taking people is not a solution to this crisis. We need a comprehensive solution that deals with the people most responsible for the terrible scenes we see: President Assad in Syria, the butchers of ISIL and the criminal gangs that are running this terrible trade in people – we have to be as tough on them at the same time.