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Scant evidence UK will resettle 20,000 Syrians by 2020: Report

British MPs condemn the EU response to refugee crisis as a 'failure’ and called on the UK to speed up resettlement
Tents in the "Jungle" camp in Calais on 24 June, 2016 (AFP).

An influential British parliamentary committee has given a damning verdict on the EU’s failure to anticipate the scale of the refugee crisis, but faced criticism itself for failing to sufficiently press the UK government to accept more refugees.

In a wide-ranging report of refugee and migrant issues, the home affairs select committee called on the British government to do more to help unaccompanied child refugees and alleviate the “absolutely atrocious” conditions of migrants and refugees camped in and around Calais.

The report, published on Wednesday, called the response to the refugee crisis a “Europe-wide failure” and condemned the EU for doing “too little, too late”.

It also issued a stark warning that there is “scant evidence” that the UK would reach the target set by David Cameron, the former British prime minister, to resettle 20,000 Syrian refugees by 2020. 

The report, which took a year to produce but faced attacks for failing to go far enough to press the government, also warned of a “two-tier system” among UK local authorities in resettling Syrians under a Home Office scheme. 

The latest figures show some areas have failed to resettle any Syrian, while others, such as Coventry, have received scores of refugees.

It urged ministers, including Prime Minister Theresa May, to encourage their own local councils to take their “fair share” of the planned 20,000 refugees and for the government to immediately accept 157 unaccompanied children identified in Calais into the UK.

However the Local Government Association, which is helping to coordinate refugee placement, said resettlement was “on track”.

Amnesty International UK said the report showed that the British government’s response to the human catastrophe of the refugee crisis had been “too low and too slow”.

Steve Symonds, the group’s director for refugees, said: “The committee reiterates its support for the UK government’s commitment to receive 20,000 Syrian refugees by 2020, but this is too low and too slow. It’s far wide of the mark as an effective response to the huge scale of the Syrian refugee crisis.”

“The committee shares the Archbishop of Canterbury’s view that the UK has the capacity to fulfil its moral obligation to accept more refugees fleeing war zones and catastrophes, yet there’s little in the report pushing the UK government to fulfil these obligations.

“We need a humane, managed and safe response to the movement of people to and within Europe – most of whom are fleeing war and persecution.”

A Home Office spokeswoman said: “Our priority is to offer humanitarian support to those most in need while maintaining the security of our borders.”

She added that a place of safety had already been provided for more than 1,800 Syrians, while the government was “on track” to deliver on its pledge to resettle 20,000 by the end of the Parliament.

In the wider EU context, the reportt noted the hugely disproportionate responsibility falling on frontline European states like Greece and Italy as a result of the EU Dublin arrangements which prioritise the country of entry to the EU as the place responsible for most asylum claims

However, the committee’s report also courted controversy by calling for an EU deal with Libya to tackle people smuggling, in a move that the Refugee Council said was “inexplicable” and undermined work to call for “sufficient safe and legal routes” for refugees to reach safety.

Responding to the report, Refugee Council’s head of advocacy Lisa Doyle said: “It’s extremely disappointing that MPs appear to have ignored the fact that the UK’s broader response to the refugee crisis has been to close of families’ escape routes and outsource responsibility for protecting them to other, poorer countries who are ill equipped to do so."

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