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Cameron visits Lebanese refugee camp
« on: September 14, 2015, 07:12:08 PM »



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Cameron visits Lebanese refugee camp

David Cameron visits Lebanese refugee camp


    14 September 2015

  • From the section UK



David Cameron has visited a Lebanese refugee camp amid the crisis triggered by war in neighbouring Syria.

Mr Cameron, who is making his first visit to Lebanon as prime minister, met a family in a camp in the Bekaa Valley who are due to be flown to the UK.

He said: "I wanted to come here to see for myself and to hear for myself stories of refugees."

The UK will accept up to 20,000 Syrian refugees over the next five years, Mr Cameron told MPs earlier this month.

He has appointed Richard Harrington as minister for Syrian refugees to ensure the arrivals are given a "warm welcome" in the UK.

The prime minister's visit comes as European Union interior ministers are meeting in Brussels to discuss plans to spread 160,000 asylum seekers across 23 EU states through mandatory quotas.

Home Secretary Theresa May is expected to attend and oppose plans for an EU-wide quota system for refugees.

Under EU law the UK, Ireland and Denmark are exempt from the quota plan.



Mr Cameron 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.

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

Following a meeting with Lebanon's prime minister Tammam Salam, Mr Cameron said the UK was "determined to do all we can" to strengthen the security of Lebanon.

He said training had already been provided to more than 5,000 Lebanese soldiers and the UK had helped to build a series of watchtowers on the border with Syria.

The UK will also "train, equip and mentor the Lebanese armed forces", he said.


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Lebanon is to receive £29m of the additional £100m in UK aid for Syria and surrounding countries announced by the prime minister earlier this month.

This will pay for food packages for thousands of refugees, as well as clean water, blankets, stoves, mattresses, counselling support and play areas for children.

There are 1.1 million Syrian refugees in Lebanon, which is more than a quarter of Lebanon's population.

Mr Cameron said: "Turning to refugees I want to pay tribute to the immense generosity and resilience of the Lebanese people who have provided refuge for their Syrian neighbours for four years and more."

The camp visited by the prime minister is operated by the UN's refugee agency and is one of 1,500 in the Bekaa Valley, which is less than a mile from the Syrian border.

Mr Cameron also watched the enrolment of pupils on the first day of the academic year at the Sed el Boucrieh school in Beirut.

At the school Syrian children are joining classes alongside Lebanese children as part of a drive, part-funded by UK aid, to integrate refugees into the wider society.


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BBC deputy political editor James Landale said Mr Cameron had been "stung" by accusations that the UK was not doing enough to help relieve Europe's refugee crisis, so he had travelled to Lebanon to highlight the British aid supporting refugees in the region.

The former Labour foreign secretary David Miliband criticised the UK government for only agreeing to resettle 20,000 refugees over the next five years.

Mr Miliband, who heads up the aid agency International Rescue Committee (IRC), said it was inadequate to take just 4,000 refugees from Syria per year and said it was the equivalent of the number arriving on the beaches of Greek island Lesbos every day.

"Europe is facing its largest refugee crisis since the end of World War Two," he said.

"Each country needs to shoulder the burden and agree to both relocate refugees who have reached the continent and resettle the most vulnerable from the Middle East."


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