Tim Farron has called on Britain to welcome about 60,000 non-EU migrants into the country as part of a joint European response to the growing refugee crisis.
Farron, who is fighting former health minister Norman Lamb for the right to succeed Nick Clegg, told the Observer that his party should show compassion by supporting an EU quota system under which refugees would be shared out between member states.
“We should support this because we are decent people. Our party should not have a mixed message about this. We should not turn people away,” he said.
The former Lib Dem president has written to David Cameron to say the UK should be proud of its record on taking in refugees, citing the admission of many thousands of Ugandan Asians who were expelled by President Idi Amin in 1972.
The policy had benefited all parties, and proved to be in the country’s economic interest. “First and foremost it is about compassion, but also there is enlightened self-interest,” Farron said.
His comments – before an Observer hustings for the two aspiring Lib Dem leaders in Bristol on Thursday – are the first by a senior UK politician in favour of a controversial quota system put forward recently by the European commission and backed by Germany and Italy.