Cameron pledges 'warm welcome' for Syrian refugees


David Cameron has urged Britain to give a "warm welcome" to Syrian refugees, as he visited some of those who will benefit from his decision to take in 20,000 of the most vulnerable people from camps in the region.

The Prime Minister met families living in the bleak surroundings of the Dalhamiyet Zahle camp less than a mile from the Syrian border in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley, where 525 Syrians - including many children - are crowded into 90 tents laid out in ranks behind a breeze-block wall.

He was invited into the tent of a mother-of-10, who told him how she struggled to feed her family on reduced handouts of 13.50 US dollars (£8.75) a month after the World Food Programme was forced to cut back support.

Mr Cameron announced that he was appointing Watford MP Richard Harrington as Minister for Syrian Refugees to oversee the operation to welcome the new arrivals to the UK over the next five years.

The Prime Minister has resisted pressure to join an EU scheme to resettle around the continent some 160,000 migrants who have made perilous journeys across the Mediterranean to Europe.

He stressed that Britain was the second largest bilateral donor of aid to displaced people in Syria and surrounding countries, with the £100 million of help he announced earlier this month bringing the UK's total contribution over three years to more than £1 billion. Some 97% of people forced out of their homes by Syria's civil war are still in the region, he said.

"I want to focus on how we help Syrian refugees here in Lebanon, in Jordan, how we make sure we discourage people from making this dangerous journey to Europe but instead we take people from these camps and we make them welcome in the United Kingdom, in our country," said Mr Cameron.

"We make sure there are homes for them to go to, schools for their children, a warm welcome in Britain."

Mr Cameron said he wanted the offer of sanctuary to 20,000 Syrians to be "something the whole country can be proud of".

The PM held talks with his Lebanese counterpart, Tammam Salam, who thanked him for Britain's "sustained decisive backing" for his country, which has taken 1.1 million Syrians - more than a quarter of Lebanon's population.

Some £29 million of the latest UK donation is going to Lebanon, with £60 million going to agencies and charities helping people in Syria itself, £6 million to Jordan and £5 million to Turkey.

Mr Cameron announced that Britain was doubling support for Lebanon's state schools to £20 million a year for the next three years, to help them cope with the influx of Syrian children.

The PM visited the Sed el Boucrieh primary school, which has tripled in size to 900 pupils due to the arrival of the Syrians.

He met Lebanese and Syrian children enrolling for the first day of the academic year, including three-year-old Lyn es-Shami, whose mother told him she had already spent two years of her life in exile from hometown Homs - a centre of resistance to dictator Bashar Assad.

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