David Cameron will no longer attempt to block a plan allowing 3,000 unaccompanied refugee children in Europe from entering the UK, earning the prime minister support from charity Save the Children.

The Conservative leader had originally opposed the amendment from Labour peer and Kindertransport survivor Lord Alf Dubs. But Cameron U-turned on the issue as he faced growing opposition from MPs and lords both sides of the political spectrum.

The move means unaccompanied Middle Eastern children in Greece, Italy or France will be eligible to relocate to Britain with help from councils across the country. The youngsters must have registered before 20 March, when the EU/Turkey refugee deal was settled.

"Let's be clear, no country has done more than Britain to help when it comes to Syrian refugees, no country has raised more money and only the United States has spent more money," Cameron said during prime minister's questions (PMQs).

"But I do want us to proceed with as much support across the house as we can. I think it's right to stick to the principle that we shouldn't be encouraging people to make this dangerous journey.

"I also think it's right to stick to the idea that we keep investing in the refugee camps and in the neighbouring countries, and I also think it's right not to take part in the EU relocation and resettlement scheme."

The government will work with Save the Children, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and local authorities to relocate the unaccompanied children. Tanya Steele, chief executive of Save the Children, praised Cameron over the climb-down.

"The prime minister has today offered a lifeline to these vulnerable children and we will work with the government and the UN to ensure that these commitments are rapidly implemented so that thousands of lone, vulnerable children can reach safety in the UK in the coming months," she said.

"Helping to resettle children already in Europe and in desperate need will provide vital humanitarian support. Under this scheme there can be no lingering anxieties about whether sanctuary represents a 'pull factor'.

"This announcement echoes Britain's proud history of offering safety at times of great crisis and we want to thank the members of parliament who have led the way in championing this cause, as well as the British public who have opened their hearts to refugee children."

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