The UK will take in thousands more Syrian refugees and provide resettlement for those fleeing the Middle East for Europe, David Cameron has announced. The prime minister, who stressed Britain would act with its "head and heart" to help solve the migrant crisis, said details of his government's plan will be announced in the week starting 7 September.

"We will do more, providing resettlement for thousands more Syrian refugees. We will continue with our approach of taking them from the refugee camps. This provides them with a more direct and safe route to the UK rather than risking the hazardous journey which has tragically cost so many of their lives," Cameron said.

"We will discuss how best to design these schemes, and the numbers we will take, with NGOs and our partners, and we will set out more details next week. Alongside this, Britain will continue to work with partners to tackle the conflict in Syria, to provide support in the region, to go after the smuggling gangs exploiting these people and we will continue to save lives at sea."

The prime minister, speaking during a visit to Portugal, said the Royal Navy and Border Force vessels have been able to save more than 6,700 people in the Mediterranean. He added: "Britain will act with our head and our heart, providing refugee for those in need while working on long-term solutions to this crisis."

The speech is a significant U-turn on Cameron's previous position, when he said the UK should not take more refugees from Syria. Since those comments, the government has faced increasing pressure from NGOs and rival political parties over the migrant crisis. Public opinion swelled on the issue after a drowned Syrian boy, Aylan Kurdi, was pictured washed up on a Turkish beach.