David Cameron should remind himself of “British traditions” when dealing with the Syrian refugee crisis, according to a former child refugee who escaped to London during the Second World War.
Aryeh Neier, co-founder of the leading campaign group Human Rights Watch, said Britain should be replicating the leading role it took when dealing with refugees eight decades ago.
As a two-year-old Mr Neier was rescued from Nazi Germany by the British government under the Kindertransport scheme that he said “saved thousands of lives”.
He criticised Britain’s plan to accept 20,000 Syrian refugees by 2020, saying it was “not enough” following a discussion over the crisis at a humanitarian conference in Yerevan, Armenia.
Since 2011, an estimated 4.8 million Syrians have fled the war-torn country. Of those Britain has accepted around 5,500 according to the government.
Mr Neier told the Press Association: “I would hope he (David Cameron) would live up to the tradition of British policy.”
He added: “During the Second World War Britain did more than lead the way. It accepted far more refugees than any other country. The British saw the danger. They saved my life, the life of my sister and the life of my family.
“In the period right before the start of the war England had not recovered from the economic depression. England feared that the Germans would be sending spies and saboteurs – nevertheless the humanitarian argument won.”
Mr Neier said that he “could not have asked for better, or more respectful treatment” from the British people during his time in the country.
“I’m a life long Anglophile as a result of my experiences in England at that time,” he added.
Mr Neier said the announcement last week that as many as 3,000 more refugees - most of them children - will be brought to Britain under a new resettlement scheme, was a step in the right direction.
He praised German chancellor Angela Merkel’s approach to the refugee crisis and said she should be honoured for the role she has played.
According to UN data Germany has accepted 105,000 Syrian refugees since 2011.
Mr Neier and his family were moved to Kettering during the war, where they lived with the family of a girl his sister had befriended in the playground.
“The girl asked her parents if my sister could live with them. My sister said, well you have to take my whole family. And they said yes.”
His family eventually moved to the US where he co-founded the Human Rights Watch group in 1978 who campaign on humanitarian issues.