By Ahmet Gurhan Kartal
LONDON (AA) - The U.K. has resettled a little over 10,000 Syrian refugees in the country, according to new government figures revealed Thursday.
The U.K. has now fulfilled half of its pledge regarding Syrian refugees after resettling 10,538 people from war-torn Syria, according to the latest quarterly Home Office immigration numbers.
The U.K. government has pledged to take 20,000 Syrians under the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme (VPRS).
The British government was criticized in 2015 over initial plans to accept around 4,000 refugees amid an outpouring of sympathy for refugees seeking safety in Europe after the images of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi who lost his life while trying to cross to Greece with his family made the front pages of newspapers.
"The whole country has been deeply moved by the heartbreaking images we have seen over the past few days and it is absolutely right that Britain should fulfill its moral responsibility to help those refugees," former Prime Minister David Cameron had said increasing the number to 20,000.
"As a country, we can be proud that we are over half way towards honoring our commitment of resettling 20,000 of the most vulnerable refugees who have fled Syria by 2020 so they can rebuild their lives here in safety," British Home Secretary Amber Rudd said Thursday.
"Nearly half are children and more people are arriving every month," she said.
Syria has been locked in a devastating civil war since March 2011 when the Assad regime cracked down on pro-democracy protests with unexpected ferocity.
Since the start of the conflict, as many as 11 million people have fled their homes and six million of those still live inside Syria. Millions of people took refuge in neighboring countries.
Turkey has become the biggest refugee-hosting country in the world after registering 3.4 million refugees from Syria, according to the UN figures. It has spent $30 billion on the refugee crisis in Syria since 2011.
Two million Syrians have been registered by UNHCR in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, and Lebanon.
UN officials say hundreds of thousands of people have been killed in the conflict.