LGA says councils stand ready to take in refugees

4 Sep 15

Councils have said they are ready to play their part in accepting more refugees from the crisis in Syria after Prime Minister David Cameron confirmed plans to take in “thousands more”.

In comments in Portugal today, Cameron said migration was the biggest challenge facing countries in Europe today and that Britain has a moral responsibility to help refugees. The government has already provided over £900m in aid to help those affected by the country’s civil war, he said, and had accepted around 5,000 refugees.

“Today I can announce that we will accept thousands more Syrian refugees under existing schemes, which we'll keep under review,” he announced.

Responding to the prime minister’s remarks, the Local Government Association said councils were prepared to help, but added any support must be on a voluntary basis, with any additional costs met by central government.

David Simmonds, chair of the LGA’s asylum, migration and refugee task group, said no-one can fail to have been affected by the tragic scenes in recent days.

“Councils across the country are playing their part and local government has an excellent track record in supporting refugee children and their families,” he said.

“The LGA has been in discussions with government over a number of years on such issues and is committed to urgently working together to find new solutions. Any support offered by councils must be on a voluntary basis where support can be adequately provided.

“However, central government has to recognise that any costs associated with this international problem must be fully met by Whitehall.” 

More details are expected today on the funding and planned location for refugees. They are likely to be drawn from the UNHCR camps on the border of Syria.

Senior Liberal Democrats in local government called on authorities to show they were “ready and willing” to offer to take in refugees fleeing persecution from the Middle East.

Chris White, a councillor on Hertfordshire County Council and the deputy leader of the LGA LibDem group, said: “Local government stands ready to help, but central government should be ashamed of itself for failing to work with other countries in addressing this issue earlier.”

Ruth Dombey, the LibDem leader of Sutton Council, added the London borough “stands ready to help”.

She added: “Sutton Council is already doing preparatory work in the hope that the government changes its stance on the situation in Europe and increases the number of refugees accepted by the UK.”

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