The first plane load of Syrian refugees has arrived in the UK as the authorities say they have done their best to ensure they do not pose a terrorist threat. The flight, believed to be carrying about 100 people from camps surrounding the war-torn Middle East state, landed at around 3.40pm today.
Several more special flights will arrive at airports around Britain in the coming months as part of a programme to take 20,000 refugees over five years.
UK Prime Minister, David Cameron established the plan following the outcry over the death of little Aylan Kurdi (his mother and brother were later found dead) who was washed up on a Greek beach in September.
The arrivals come after it emerged that at least one of the attackers in the Paris atrocity is believed to have entered Europe through Greece posing as a refugee from Syria.
At the weekend, the UK Home Secretary Theresa May said those who arrive in the UK from the region will have been thoroughly screened to ensure they do not pose a terrorist threat.
She said multiple checks are in place for those earmarked for relocation in Britain.
“There are two levels of screening that take place,” she told BBC1’s Andrew Marr Show.
“First of all, we are taking people directly from the camps. We are working with UNHCR – UNHCR take biometrics, they look at documents, they interview people, they do their own process of screening against issues like war crimes and serious criminality.
“Then there is a further check that is done once people are referred to the UK. The Home Office then undertakes further checks, further biometrics are taken.”
The revelation that one of the Paris attackers was a Syrian refugee prompted Home Office chiefs to carry out an urgent review of whether Britain’s entry procedures were tough enough.
Paul Morrison, director of the UK Syrian resettlement programme, said British methods were more thorough than in France because refugees are plucked directly from camps in Syria.
Refugees are verified by both the UN Refugee Agency and the British government before their application to come to Britain can be approved.
A “steady stream” of refugees have already come to the UK since the scheme was announced in September but the start of special charter flights is described as a “step change”.
New arrivals will be given a five-year visa allowing them to remain in the country, after which they will be able to apply for leave to remain.
Downing Street refused to specify how many refugees were arriving today but said they had undergone “rigorous” security checks before boarding the plane.
A spokesman said it would be “reasonable to assume” the refugees would go to areas within a “reasonable radius” of Glasgow.