The British PM faced harsh criticism last week when he said the UK would not accept "more and more" migrants, on the same day the images of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi face down on a beach in Turkey, appeared having drowned along with his five-year-old brother, Galip, and their mother, Rehan.
Cameron told the House of Commons:
"We are proposing that Britain should resettle up to 20,000 Syrian refuges over the rest of this parliament. In doing so, we will continue to show the world that this country is a country of extraordinary compassion."
He said he had told German Chancellor Angela Merkel — who had called on more EU states to do more to assist in the Syrian crisis — of his decision and that she had welcomed his announcement. But he insisted it was better to take people directly from refugee camps around Syria, rather than encourage people to make the dangerous journey across Europe — particularly by sea.
— David Cameron (@David_Cameron) September 4, 2015
Taking refugees direct from camps allows a safe route to the UK, rather than the hazardous journey that's cost so many lives (2/2).— David Cameron (@David_Cameron) September 4, 2015
However, the pledge is a small one — offering 20,000 over a period of five years means an annual intake averaging 5,000 while other countries are shouldering a higher burden.
According to Amnesty International, more than 4 million refugees from Syria (95 percent) are in just five countries: Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt. Lebanon hosts approximately 1.2 million refugees from Syria which amounts to around one in five people in the country.
Jordan hosts about 650,000 refugees from Syria, which amounts to about 10% of the population. Turkey hosts 1.9 million refugees from Syria, more than any other country worldwide. Iraq where three million people have been internally displaced in the last 18 months hosts 249,463 refugees from Syria. Egypt hosts 132,375 refugees from Syria.
20,000 refugees arrived at Munich station over the weekend. 20,000 Cameron's offer over next 5 years.— Giles Fraser (@giles_fraser) September 7, 2015
Germany has pledged 35,000 places for Syrian refugees through its humanitarian admission program and individual sponsorship; about 75 percent of the EU total. Germany and Sweden together have received 47% Syrian asylum applications in the EU between April 2011 and July 2015
Excluding Germany and Sweden, the remaining 26 EU countries have pledged around 8,700 resettlement places, or around 0.2 percent of Syrian refugees in the main host countries.
In the UK, cities such as Birmingham, Newcastle, Edinburgh and Cambridge have said they will accept 50 refugees each. Glasgow and Liverpool have confirmed they will take in 100 refugees each. More than a dozen other local authorities in the UK have said they would take in Syrian refugees.