David Bull, Executive Director of Unicef UK said: 

“Unicef UK welcomes Prime Minister David Cameron’s pledge that the UK will, over the next five years, resettle up to 20,000 of those who have been forced to flee their homes in Syria. With more than 4 million Syrian refugees sheltering in neighbouring countries - Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt – it is right that we take refugees fleeing this long-running, complex and brutal conflict which has led to so much suffering, particularly for children. As winter approaches, the hazardous and desperate journeys to Europe being taken by so many will become even more challenging and life-threatening, so it is vital to ensure that a significant proportion of the 20,000 should be accepted quickly, ideally in the coming weeks and months. 

“As the Prime Minister acknowledged, many Syrian children who have lost parents are being looked after by extended family members in the region. Decisions need to be made in line with these children’s best interests – this may mean allowing extended family members or carers to come to the UK to be resettled with orphaned Syrian children.  

“In addition, given the scale and immediacy of the humanitarian need, we also urge the UK to consider offering homes to unaccompanied children who have reached Europe on their own from across the Middle East and Africa. These children are at greatest risk of all of the refugees and migrants who have arrived; living and travelling alone without family support, they are in danger of abuse and exploitation. 

“Beyond resettling Syrian refugees, the government needs to consider providing safer alternatives for those fleeing conflict and persecution, so they are not forced into the hands of traffickers and smugglers. The government could allow refugees to apply for humanitarian visas in countries of origin and transit; and widen existing family reunion rules to allow for refugee children to join relatives such as grandparents in the UK.

“It is important that the UK maintains its aid to the Syria region and we welcome the additional assistance for children. More than 7.6 million Syrian children are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance – 15 times as many as when the crisis began. The UK is a generous aid donor and has met its commitment to spend 0.7% of its GNI on overseas development assistance. We should be proud of the difference that is making, including for children fleeing war in Syria.”


Notes for editors:

For further information please contact the Unicef UK Press Office on +44 (0)20 7375 6030 or media@unicef.org.uk

About Unicef

Unicef is the world’s leading organisation for children, promoting the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.  

Unicef UK raises funds to protect children in danger, transform their lives and build a safer world for tomorrow’s children.  As a registered charity we raise funds through donations from individuals, organisations and companies and we lobby and campaign to keep children safe. Unicef UK also runs programmes in schools, hospitals and with local authorities in the UK. For more information please visit unicef.org.uk