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Churches urge Cameron to increase UK intake of Syrian refugees
18 February 2014 13:02 by James Macintyre

The Catholic bishops of England and Wales along with dozens of free church leaders have urged Prime Minister David Cameron to let more Syrian refugees into Britain.

Last month the Government announced that it would take in 500 of the most vulnerable refugees fleeing Syria’s civil war.

But this week 48 church leaders including Bishop Patrick Lynch, Chair of Migration Policy for the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, called for the number to be increased to at least a thousand.

Fr Frans van der Lugt SJ in Homs

In their open letter to Mr Cameron, the clerics noted that the UN High Commissioner for Refugees has identified 30,000 refugees who are particularly vulnerable and require permanent residency in European countries. Different countries have varied in their response. While Norway has pledged to accept 1,000 refugees Germany is set to take in 10,000.

The letter, which is also signed by Baptists, Methodists and United Reformed Church leaders from across the country, says: “We … would want to encourage your Government to think in terms of making a contribution appropriate to the size of our country … The figure of up to 500…seems to be a long way short of that. To be proportionate with these countries and some way above the Norway figure … would seem to represent a responsible response to the present crisis, and one which would resonate with our historic tradition of welcoming refugees.”

Top: A refugee carries boxes of aid at Zaatari refugee camp in Mafraq in neighbouring Jordan, to where more than 600,000 Syrians have fled. Above: The only European left in the besieged city of Homs, Jesuit Fr Frans van der Lugt, who has vowed to remain with whoever chooses to stay. An agreement to allow aid into Homs was a rare success from the Geneva II peace talks last month (CNS/Reuters)