Confirmed: Britain to take hundreds of Syrian refugees

Britainwill take hundreds of the most needy refugees from Syria, after the government ended its opposition to the policy.

While the coalition still refuses to get involved in UN-led refugee programmes, it will be providing refuge for some of those most traumatised by the crisis, such as women and girls who are at risk of sexual violence, the elderly, survivors of torture and people with disabilities.

"The coalition government wants to play our part in helping to alleviate the immense suffering in Syria," Nick Clegg said.

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

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

"Britain has a long and proud tradition of provided refuge at times of  crisis. This Coalition Government will ensure it lives on."

The categories of refugees Britain will take are based on programmes run by the UN High Commission for Refugees, which is backing the UK resettlement programme.

Government sources are refusing to set a quota on the number of people they will take, but it is likely to be in the hundreds.

The refugees are expected to be identified and brought to the UK over the coming months.

"The coalition has made the right call. It is absolutely right to reach out to Syrian refugees," Russell Hargrave of Asylum Aid told

"It’s hard to imagine the suffering when so many women are at risk of being raped in a warzone, and so many children have been left with nothing,

"I hope ministers are keeping an open mind, too, about helping people with connections to the UK. Asylum Aid has seen so many times what it means when families are re-united somewhere safe. It is life-changing for the parents and kids involved.

"The government has also made a smart political choice. The British public can and will extend their generosity when people desperately need it. And we have seen few things as desperate as the chaos and conflict in Syria."

The U-turn comes just days after Ed Miliband pressed David Cameron on the issue at PMQs and followed up the session with a pledge to hold a Commons vote this week.

That vote was likely to see many Liberal Democrat MPs and some Tories vote with Labour, opening the possibility of a government defeat.

The UK has already committed £600 million in humanitarian aid for the region, making it the second biggest bilateral donor after the US.