Thousands sign petitions urging UK to accept more refugees | News | DW | 03.09.2015
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Thousands sign petitions urging UK to accept more refugees

Tens of thousands have petitioned the UK government to do more about the influx of refugees fleeing violence and seeking safety in Europe. Britain resists proposals for an EU-wide quota system for accepting refugees.

A parliamentary petition calling on Prime Minister David Cameron to accept more asylum seekers has passed the halfway mark to send the issue to parliamentary debate. The surge in public outcry follows news photos of a drowned child refugee washing up on a Turkish shore has shocked people around the globe.

"The UK is not offering proportional asylum in comparison with European counterparts," the petition states. "We can't allow refugees who have risked their lives to escape horrendous conflict and violence to be left living in dire, unsafe and inhumane conditions in Europe."

The petition on the government-run site has garnered more than 51,000 supporters as of early Thursday.

The government is obliged to respond to petitions with more than 10,000 signatures; if it reaches 100,000, the issue will be considered for debate in parliament.

'More than 100,000' petition Home Secretary

That larger target remains possible as a petition calling on British Home Secretary Theresa May to "immediate sanctuary to refugees fleeing war and violence" has gained more than 136,500 signatures in four days.

Separately, The Independent newspaper launched its own campaign Wednesday with more than 15,250 supporters calling for Britain to "accept its fair share" of refugees.

"... to political leaders in this country and across the EU we say this: if ever there was a time for Europe to work together - and to show how far the continent has come since the dark days of the last world war - it must be now," the London newspaper wrote in an editorial.

Conservative government under pressure

David Cameron speaks at a podium.

British Prime Minister David Cameron has resisted calls to accept more refugees.

Opposition politicians have called on the Conservative government to increase the numbers of refugees accepted in Britain, which has agreed to accept under 6,000 Syrian refugees, a lower number of asylum seekers as a proportion of its population than most other EU countries.

By contrast, Germany says it expects to receive 800,000 asylum seekers this year.

The prime minister insisted on Wednesday that accepting more refugees from the war-torn Middle East was not the answer to solving the greatest refugee crisis in Europe since the Second World War.

"We think that the most important thing is to bring peace and stability to that part of the world," Cameron told the BBC. "I don't think that there is an answer that can be achieved by taking more and more refugees."

The British government under Cameron's leadership has also resisted calls this summer for a quota system to share refugees across the 28 member states of the European Union.

jar/jr (AFP, petition sites)

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