George Osborne has blamed Islamic State (Isis) for the death of a Syrian boy, Aylan Kurdi, who was pictured washed up on a Turkish beach after his Kurdish family attempted to flee their homeland for Europe. The comments come after David Cameron was heavily criticised for saying that Britain should not take more refugees from the Middle East as migrant crisis continues.
The chancellor said he was "distressed" by the image, and argued there was "no simple answer" to the crisis. "What you need to do is, first of all, tackle IS and the criminal gangs who killed that boy. You've get to make sure the aid keeps coming," Osborne told Sky News.
"We've put £1bn [$1.5bn] of overseas aid to help these desperate people and, of course, Britain has always been a home to real asylum seekers, genuine refugees, we've taken 5,000 people from the Syrian conflict, we'll go on taking people and keep it under review."
But the top Tory's words may do little to quell the backlash Cameron and his government have faced since claiming the UK should not take on more Middle East refugees yesterday (2 September). The political pressure on Number 10 has increased since the "boy on the beach" image shocked millions and was republished on the front pages of most daily newspapers this morning (3 September).
Harriet Harman, the acting Labour leader, has written to the prime minister and argued that Britain has a "moral duty" to take more refugees. She wrote: "I disagree with the conclusion you appear to have drawn, that there is somehow a choice to be made between building stability in the region through greater humanitarian support, and playing our part in helping desperate refugees who have fled the horror in Syria. There isn't.
"I strongly support the government's continued aid for the refugee camps in the region and agree with you that we need much tougher action against people trafficking, but it is clear now that we also have a moral duty to act to take in more of these people and help them to rebuild their lives."
The letter comes after Labour's shadow home secretary and leadership hopeful Yvette Cooper said the UK should take on 10,000 extra refugees and the party's immigration spokesman exclusively told IBTimes UK that European leaders should launch a review into the Schengen agreement, the passport-free treaty that has come under scrutiny amid the migrant crisis.
The UK and Ireland have an opt-out to the agreement but David Hanson MP urged EU officials to examine the treaty when they meet at a 14 September conference. "We will be arguing that they should at least review [Schengen] and how it is operates because of the fact that people can enter Greece and travel unended through the whole of Europe to as far as Calais," he said.