Did David Cameron just signal a U-turn on his stance over the escalating refugee crisis?
On the back of growing criticism the UK's Prime Minister said this afternoon that the country would fulfil its “moral responsibilities”. Cameron said “as a father I felt deeply moved” by the pictures of Aylan Kurdi, the three-year old Syrian boy who was found dead on a Turkish beach yesterday.
It's not clear just yet whether this will result in a policy change, however, with Cameron largely emphasising points previously made.
In an interview posted by the Press Association this afternoon, he explained.
That’s why I sent the Royal Navy to the Mediterranean and saved thousands of lives. That’s why Britain meets our commitment of 0.7 per cent of our economy spent on aid, much of which goes to North Africa, goes to the Middle East to help those countries.
That is why Britain is the second biggest bilateral donor in the world to those Syrian refugee camps. And that is why, yes, we are taking thousands of Syrian refugees, and will continue to do that. As I said yesterday, we keep that under review.
But, as I also said yesterday, there isn’t a solution to this problem that is simply about taking people. We need a comprehensive solution ...the people responsible for these terrible scenes are President Assad in Syria and the butchers of Isil [Islamic State] and the criminal gangs that are running this terrible trade in people. And we have to be as tough on them at the same time.
David Cameron "deeply moved" by pictures of a Syrian boy lying dead on a beach pic.twitter.com/h4cOUA7CIk— Press Association (@PA) September 3, 2015
But pressure has been building on Cameron to change his stance, with several members of his own party saying the UK should provide more help to refugees. He also faced criticism from Labour leadership candidates, the Liberal Democrats and the Scottish National Party.
Cameron is also coming under attack internationally. Earlier today, Nils Muinieks, the Council of Europe’s commissioner for human rights raised concerns over his position. He said:
While it is true that long-term peace should be brought to Syria and other war-torn countries, it is also true that the UK has a legal and moral obligation to offer shelter to those who flee war and persecution.
The truth is that at the moment the UK is doing much less than other European countries, like Germany or Sweden, which give refuge to thousands of Syrians.
Meanwhile, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has urged “uniform” European policies, and a senior politician within her alliance warned Cameron’s strategy on refugees could harm his renegotiation attempts.