THIS isn’t the place for detailed debate about the distinction between people feeing persecution and those escaping extreme poverty (often stigmatised as economic migrants).

But your leader (Caution is called for on refugees, July 17) and the charmless and churlish letters on the subject from Will Richards and Mike Charles prompt three thoughts.

First, that opinions hitherto associated with BNP and EDF now appear on your pages may help explain – if not excuse – the growth of parties like UKIP.

Second, while I disagree with our Prime Minister on almost everything (especially his determination to stigmatise the poorest and weakest in our community), I give him credit for maintaining our meagre overseas aid budget in the face of attack by right-wing papers and groups.

Last, you say decisions on whether to help a few of those whose homes and livelihoods have been destroyed by the civil war in Syria "cannot be made on emotions alone". Why not? There are surely times – such as when Britain helped the boat people from Vietnam, the Asians fleeing Idi Amin’s purge in Uganda or those facing starvation during Ethiopia’s terrible famine – that applying passion and compassion, whatever the cost, is the only proper response.

David Robertson

West Malvern