British Prime Minister Says U.K. Will Accept 20,000 Syrian Refugees By 2020

British Prime Minister Says U.K. Will Accept 20,000 Syrian Refugees By 2020

6:27am Oct 20, 2015

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People from the Middle East and North Africa have been arriving on Europe's shores for months, escaping war, violence and poverty. The global outcry now is finally forcing European leaders to take action. We start this hour with some major announcements that happened today. And as NPR's Ari Shapiro reports, the response is far from unified.

ARI SHAPIRO, BYLINE: Europe's commissioner for migration, Dmitri Avromopolous, visited a refugee camp near Vienna today. He said Europe needs to respond to this crisis as one coordinated body.


DMITRI AVROMOPOLOUS: Offering asylum is not a courtesy. It's a responsibility.

SHAPIRO: German chancellor Angela Merkel expressed the same sentiment today.


ANGELA MERKEL: (Through interpreter) It is time for the European Union to pull its weight. We will only manage to cope with these challenges if we rely on European solidarity.

SHAPIRO: Yet, the numbers show just how divided Europe is. So far this year, Germany has granted asylum to nearly 40,000 Syrian refugees while the U.K. has granted asylum to just over 800. In London, Prime Minister David Cameron told Parliament the U.K. will do more.


DAVID CAMERON: And it is absolutely right that Briton should fulfill its moral responsibility to help those refugees just as we've done so proudly throughout our history.

SHAPIRO: He said the U.K. will take in 20,000 Syrian refugees but only from Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon. The U.K. won't take people who have already arrived in Europe. So much for European solidarity. In Paris, President Francois Hollande said the EU will soon announce a plan to distribute 120,000 refugees around Europe, and France will take 24,000.


FRANCOIS HOLLANDE: (Through interpreter) We will do this. We will do this because I believe it is a principle which France is bound by. We will do this because this is a plan that we ourselves put forward and which I hope will be adopted by Europe as a whole.

SHAPIRO: Then, leaders in Denmark and the Czech Republic said they will oppose any system to impose refugee quotas on European countries. Meanwhile, at the Vatican, Pope Francis said Catholics have a moral obligation to open their doors.


POPE FRANCIS: (Through interpreter) I appeal to the parishes, the religious communities, the monasteries and sanctuaries of all Europe to show the true meaning of the gospel.

SHAPIRO: Many outside observers see this as a continent-wide political failure. Emma Carmel is a migration specialist at the University of Bath in England.

EMMA CARMEL: This was entirely predictable. We've known for some time that numbers of migrants and people seeking refuge from the Middle East would be increasing, and now we're facing it. It seems to me that a better system of coordination could already have been in place.

SHAPIRO: Yet even now, when political leaders can no longer ignore the problem, there is no consideration of a long-term coordinated European solution. Ari Shapiro, NPR News, London. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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