UK to take in 'hundreds' of Syrians

LONDON - Some of the "most vulnerable" Syrian refugees will be temporarily resettled in the UK, Deputy PM Nick Clegg says.

He said girls and women who had been victims of or were at risk of sexual violence, torture victims, and elderly and disabled people would get priority.

This meant the coalition was ensuring Britain's "long and proud tradition of providing refuge" lived on, he said.

The government expects the number of refugees accepted to be in the hundreds but has not set a specific target.

The UK's resettlement programme is to be separate from the ongoing UN High Commissioner for Refugees scheme which has seen Germany commit to admitting 10,000 Syrian refugees and France take 500.

Home Secretary Theresa May is expected to spell out more details of the government's plan to MPs later.

During exchanges in the Commons on Monday, the government faced criticism from MPs of all political parties for declining to participate in the UN-led scheme.

The deputy prime minister's announcement pre-empted a Labour-led debate on the issue, where the government was facing the prospect of a Commons defeat over its refusal to sign up to the UNHCR initiative.

Mr Clegg said: "The coalition government wants to play our part in helping to alleviate the immense suffering in Syria. The £600m we have provided makes us the second largest bilateral donor of humanitarian aid in the world.

"But as the conflict continues to force millions of Syrians from their homes, we need to make sure we are doing everything we can.

"We are one of the most open-hearted countries in the world and I believe we have a moral responsibility to help.

"The UN High Commission for Refugees - which backs our new resettlement programme - has said the highest priority should go to women and girls who have experienced or are at risk of sexual violence; the elderly; survivors of torture and individuals with disabilities, so that's who we'll target.

"Sadly we cannot provide safety for everyone who needs it, but we can reach out to some of those who need it most."

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