First Syrian refugees to arrive 'in the coming days', Theresa May says
The first group of Syrian refugees to be taken in under the Government's expanded resettlement programme will arrive in Britain in the coming days, Theresa May has said.
The refugees will be arriving from camps in countries that border war-ravaged Syria and will count towards the 20,000 the UK has agreed to take over the next four and a half years.
Home Secretary Mrs May said the Government was "working at speed" to plan for even more arrivals in the coming weeks.
In a Commons statement, she said it is "imperative" the support the refugees "need and deserve" is in place.
Mrs May told MPs: " I know that honourable members and the general public are keen to know more detail on the numbers and when people are expected to arrive.
"But I must underline that the scale of the expansion needs careful and meticulous planning to ensure we get it right."
She said further updates would be provided in the future, adding: " I am pleased to tell the House that we are looking forward to welcoming the first wave of new arrivals in the coming days and are working at speed to plan for even more in the coming weeks."
Mrs May said one of Syrian refugee minister Richard Harrington 's first commitments will be to hold a meeting over the coming weeks with NGOs to work out how best to harness the British public's desire to help.
A Government website and a Red Cross helpline will also advise people on how they can help Syrian refugees in the UK, Mrs May said.
"The response of the British public has been one of overwhelming generosity and many have been moved to make very kind offers of assistance," the Home Secretary said.
New shadow home secretary Andy Burnham said he welcomed the further measures announced, adding clarity is needed on the "headline figures" and asked how many refugees were expected to arrive before Christmas.
On numbers, Mrs May replied: "We haven't set a year by year quota in relation to that and we haven't set a target for the numbers before Christmas."
It is "less likely" that any of the refugees brought into the UK will be Islamic State fighters because they are subject to security checks and are mainly vulnerable people such as victims of sexual violence and children, Mrs May said.
Home Affairs Select Committee chairman Keith Vaz called for "24/7" action to defeat the criminal smuggling gangs who are trafficking people across Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
Tory Eurosceptic Sir Bill Cash (Stone) also drew audible reaction from the back benches as he questioned what actions are being taken to "s top the tsunami of millions of people who could well come over here and swamp Europe".
SNP Joanna Cherry QC (Justice and Home Affairs) said the SNP "remains of the view that the UK Government is not doing enough in the face of the extraordinary humanitarian crisis which is sweeping across southern and now central Europe".
Downing Street said the resettlement scheme would be a "rolling process" which would not necessarily see large numbers of Syrians arriving at one time.