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UK looks likely to offer Syrian 'White Helmets' refuge

By Jack Hardy

Rescue workers known as the White Helmets are expected to be resettled in Britain after an evacuation from Syria's conflict-scarred southern border.

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said in a joint statement with the International Development Secretary that the "brave and selfless" volunteers required "immediate protection".

The UK had backed an international effort to rescue members of the group and their families from the frontier with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

They had fled as a Syrian government offensive in the south-west of the country intensified earlier this summer.

The regime considers the White Helmets a "terrorist" organisation because it works in areas controlled by its opponents. Its members are often targeted during attacks.

Jordan has agreed to temporarily house the 422 evacuees, but its Foreign Ministry said Britain, Germany and Canada would resettle them.

Spokesman Mohammed al-Kayed said the Syrians would remain in a closed area for up to three months before moving on.

The Foreign Office is expected to help resettle the White Helmets and their families.

It is understood that the United Nations procedures for resettling refugees would be used to decide who could come to the UK, while their placement would be resolved through the Government's vulnerable persons resettlement scheme.

Mr Hunt and Penny Mordaunt said in a joint statement: "Following a joint diplomatic effort by the UK and international partners, a group of White Helmets volunteers from southern Syria and their families have been able to leave Syria for safety.

"White Helmets have been the target of attacks and, due to their high profile, we judged that, in these particular circumstances, the volunteers required immediate protection."

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