As expected, the government has changed its stance on Syrian refugees this evening ahead of what had looked to be a difficult vote in the House of Commons tomorrow. Nick Clegg has just announced that the UK will now offer refuge to vulnerable Syrians such as women and girls who have experienced or are at risk of sexual violence, the elderly, survivors of torture and disabled people. This will only likely equate to a few hundred, but there will be no quota for the number of refugees the UK takes. Clegg said this evening:
‘The Coalition Government wants to play our part in helping to alleviate the immense suffering in Syria. The £600m we have provided makes us the second largest bilateral donor of humanitarian aid in the world.
‘But as the conflict continues to force millions of Syrians from their homes, we need to make sure we are doing everything we can. We are one of the most open hearted countries in the world and I believe we have a moral responsibility to help.’
‘Britain has a long and proud tradition of provided refuge at times of crisis. This Coalition Government will ensure it lives on.’
Unfortunately for such a terrible subject, this has become a rather political row. Clegg has made it known that he has tussled with ministers behind the scenes on this, while Labour are this evening pointing to the pressure brought by their own Opposition Day debate. There were also a number of Tory backbenchers who were growing increasingly agitated about the government’s stance on this subject, believing a different response was needed.