UK Prime Minister David Cameron on Friday said that Britain would take in “thousands more” Syrian refugees as the migration crisis in Europe deepens.
Cameron changed his stance after an outpouring of emotion over the image of a dead Syrian toddler on a Turkish beach put him under pressure to act.
“Given the scale of the crisis and the suffering of people, today I can announce that we will do more in providing resettlement for thousands more Syrian refugees,” Cameron told reporters in Lisbon after meeting his Portuguese counterpart.
About 5,000 Syrians, who made their own way to Britain since the start of the war in their country, have been granted asylum, while an additional 216 Syrians were brought to Britain under a UN-backed relocation scheme.
He said that the government would discuss the best approach with humanitarian organisations and announce further details next week.
The announcement marked a change of tack from Cameron after he made comments on Wednesday and Thursday that were widely perceived as inadequate responses to the crisis, especially after the harrowing image of the dead Syrian boy was published.
Cameron had previously insisted that Britain was already doing a lot, including sending aid to Syrian refugee camps in the Middle East and dispatching the Royal Navy to the Mediterranean to help rescue migrants from dangerous boats.
But a growing number of critics, including several members of parliament from his own Conservative Party and the human rights chief of the Council of Europe, had urged Britain to take in more refugees.