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UK Taking Syrian Refugees 'Just A Gesture'

Michelle Bergmann |
January 30, 2014 | 9:57 p.m. PST

Executive Producer

(Freedom House/Flickr)
(Freedom House/Flickr)
After growing pressure from internal lobbyists, the UK will offer hundreds of Syrians refuge. 

"It's a nice gesture, but it's still just a gesture," said Philip Seib, Professor of Journalism and Public Diplomacy at USC. "It's not going to contribute very much to solving the overall problem."

The pledge came after long debate over Britain's lack of participation in the United Nations program which aims to find 30,000 Syrian refugees homes in host countries. 

According to the BBC, British policy has been to deliver aid on the ground, which it has been, acting as the second biggest world donor to the United States. But Parliament changed their policy after domestic pressures. 

"The British public has been calling for this for awhile and I think the Prime Minister was trying to figure out what was in Britain's best interest," said Naomi Leight, an Assistant Director at the USC Center on Public Diplomacy. 

The prime minister chose the term "greatest urgency" to describe the UK's intent, an interesting choice of words considering the issue has been under continuous debate for months. For some this just makes a small dent in the problem of more than 2 million displaced Syrian refugees. 

"It's good. Anyway that you can get some of those people, particularly the sick, elderly or those who have been tortured, to a safe haven," said Seib. "But taking a few hundred refugees does not come to grips with the problem".

Considering the United States is taking an unlimited amount of refugees and Germany is taking more than 10,000, the UK was slowly losing humanitarian recognition from the international community. According to Leight, it was a good diplomatic move. But for some Syrians it is simply not enough.

"It's a positive initiative. But [the UK] have helped only 3,500 people and compared to the overall number of displaced refugees those numbers have no meaning." said Diana Nemeh, a Syrian currently living in the United States. 

Nemeh is concerned about the efficiency in getting the refugees to the UK, noting that many refugees have no way of traveling to hosting countries. 

"It's almost impossible for the refugees to get to these countries. The first line of fire is Turkey and Lebanon, if they get caught they are deported," said Nemeh. 

The timing of the statement was inline with the Geneva peace talks, where countries gather to discuss and problem solve humanitarian issues. In someways it underscores the sadness of the situation, that the most powerful nations in the world are at odds.

"Even though it is not the world's responsibility to save these people, it is a global conflict, threatening the world," concluded Nemeh.

Prime Minister David Cameron said in a statement Wednesday that the government will provide emergency sanctuary in the UK to Syrians who are "particularly vulnerable", specifically referencing victims of torture and sexual violence, and women and children at-risk or in need of medical care.

Reach Executive Producer Michelle Bergmann here.



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