LONDON, United Kingdom. The Prime Minister has visited refugee camps on the border with Syria to see the impact of the humanitarian crisis “at source”.
David Cameron visited a UN operated camp in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, home to 500 people in 90 tents including many children.
After meeting with members of the Lebanese government, he went on to Jordan where Britain has provided aid for those living in tents.
In Syria, he met a vulnerable family due to be resettled to the UK as part of a commitment by the Government last week to take 20,000 Syrian refugees by 2020.
At the camp, Mr Cameron said: “I wanted to come here to see for myself and to hear for myself stories of refugees and what they need.
“Britain is already the second largest donor to refugee camps, to this whole crisis, really helping in a way that many other countries aren’t with serious amounts of money.
“We will go on doing that including increasing the amount of money we are giving to educate Syrian children here in Lebanon and elsewhere. I think that’s absolutely vital.”
In the summer Mr Cameron came under pressure to change strategy on Syria after hundreds of refugees drowned while making the perilous journey from the war-torn country to Europe.
But the Government stressed its strategy has not changed.
The UK is expanding programmes to accept vulnerable displaced people from camps in the region, but will not join in the EU effort to disperse arrivals in Greece, Italy and Hungary.
Britain is spending £1bn in camps neighbouring Syria, including £300m in Lebanon.
After visiting the camp, Mr Cameron went on to meet his counterpart in Lebanon Tammam Salam.
In a news conference held after the meeting, Mr Cameron said the UK would help train, equip and mentor Lebanese armed forces.
He stressed that, despite the images of thousands of refugees entering Europe, 97% of those fleeing the Syrian war had remained in the region.
More than a million Syrian refugees now live in Lebanon, which has a population of 4.5 million.
The Prime Minister announced he was appointing Watford MP Richard Harrington as a new minister specifically for Syrian refugees.
He said Mr Harrington would make sure that the resettling of the 20,000 “happens rapidly, it happens well, and the whole country pulls together to deliver that”.
Some £29m of an extra £100m announced by the PM this month will be spent in Lebanon paying for food, accommodation and help with schooling for Syrian and Palestinian refugees displaced from Syrian camps.
But the PM reiterated in the wake of the crisis in the Schengen borderless travel area that Britain’s strategy was to “discourage people from making the dangerous journey to Europe”.
He said: “Instead we take people from these camps and we make them welcome in the United Kingdom, in our country.
“We make sure there are homes for them to go to, schools for their children, a warm welcome in Britain.
“Twenty thousand people we are taking, I want that to be done well, I want it to be something the whole country can be proud of and I wanted to come here today to hear their stories for myself.”
Credit: Sky News