Britain promises to act swiftly to aid Syrians

William HagueBritain will act “straight away” to provide a refuge for hundreds of vulnerable Syrians brutalised by their country’s civil war, Foreign Secretary William Hague said Thursday.

Speaking in the Philippine capital during a Southeast Asian tour, Hague said his government would act quickly on the pledge announced Tuesday by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.

“We’re getting on with it straight away,” Hague told a joint news conference after meeting his Philippine counterpart Albert del Rosario.

“We will take people into the United Kingdom in order to help them and give them some respite and some care after some of the things that they have been through.”

Female victims of sexual violence, the disabled, the elderly and torture victims would be the targets of the programme, Clegg said on Tuesday.

When asked when or how the scheme would be implemented, Hague did not give specifics but stressed the details would be known soon.

Hague added the British government had not set a precise figure for those who would profit, but Clegg’s office said Tuesday the overall number of refugees was likely to be in the hundreds.

The United Nations said the number of Syrian refugees had grown from 588,000 at the end of 2012 to 2.4 million in late 2013.

Britain has granted asylum to more than 2,000 Syrians since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began in March 2011 — 1,500 of them last year.

The British government has pledged to slash total net migration to the UK to under 100,000 by 2015, and has defended its policy of focusing on giving aid to Syrians rather than offering a comprehensive resettlement programme.

It said it has committed £600 million ($993 million) in humanitarian aid to help alleviate the situation for displaced Syrians, making it the second largest donor after the United States.

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