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First charter flights to bring Syrian refugees to Britain

Published 14/11/2015

Refugees have been fleeing the conflict in Syria
Refugees have been fleeing the conflict in Syria

The first in a series of charter flights bringing Syrian refugees to the UK will arrive on Tuesday as the Government steps up its expanded relocation programme.

Officials confirmed the plane will land in Glasgow - marking a new phase in the scheme to resettle 20,000 people from camps around the war-ravaged country.

Several more special flights will arrive at airports around Britain in the coming months and the refugees will be housed with the help of local authorities.

The Home Office has confirmed offers of support from more than 45 councils, while talks are continuing with dozens more.

David Cameron announced at the start of September that Britain would "live up to its moral responsibility" by taking 20,000 refugees from the camps on the borders of Syria by the end of the current parliament in 2020.

The move came in the wake of a public outcry over the fate of Syrians driven to attempt to make the perilous crossing of the Mediterranean by boat, following the publication of pictures of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi who drowned with several family members as they tried to reach Greece from Turkey.

Sources said a "steady stream" of refugees have already come to the UK since the Prime Minister's announcement but the start of special charter flights is described as a "step change".

The number of people expected to be on the first plane has not been confirmed.

Richard Harrington, Minister for Syrian Refugees, said the Government is "well on the way" to meeting the Prime Minister's target of 1,000 arrivals by Christmas.

"It has taken a huge amount of effort and work to get to this point, involving many government departments, the UNHCR, local authorities the length and breadth of the United Kingdom and others," he said.

"These flights mark a real step-change in the scheme as we upscale it to resettle 20,000 Syrians by the end of this Parliament and we look forward to welcoming and helping hundreds of people in the coming weeks."

New arrivals will be given a five-year visa allowing them to remain in the country, after which they will be able to apply for leave to remain.

There have been calls in some quarters for the UK to accept more refugees. More than 300 lawyers including senior former judges signed a statement describing the response to the crisis as "deeply inadequate".

Meanwhile, MPs have raised doubts over whether Britain is prepared for the initiative.

In a report last month the Commons Home Affairs Committee said of the annual average needed to meet the 20,000 pledge: "At no point in the recent past has the UK come near to resettling 4,000 refugees in one year."

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