Wednesday, September 02, 2015

How best to help refugees

Having lots of emails from constituents, calling for the Govt to allow more Syrian refugees to enter the UK. They all insist such a step would help alleviate the suffering of those desperate people seeking to move to EU countries from Syria, Eritrea, Libya, Nigeria, Afghanistan, etc.. Let's just consider this proposition. I was rather in favour of the UK taking in some Syrian refugees when it first became a major subject of public debate a year ago. And been disappointed that we have taken in so few. I admit my view was influenced by what I saw as MPs turning their backs on Syrian refugees when we ruled out any consideration of action against Bashar-al Assad a year ago. We knew the Syrian dictator was inflicting unimaginable horrors on his own people, killing children indiscriminately in the most violent ways, including gassing them in acts of genocididal mass slaughter. 

I took some criticism at the time for saying we should take in 15000 'Christian refugees' who seemed to be under particular threat. Not meant to suggest Christians were more valued than any other refugees. I was just responding in the context that Christians seemed to be singled out for persecution in many parts of our world. The negative response to my public support to take in refugees certainly made me wary of making any comment on the crisis since - probably not the response my critics would have wanted! The level of public interest has reached such a level that I'm venturing more comment. I also acknowledge that my view was as much about making me feel better about myself and my country and would have been a minuscule response to the massive humanitarian crisis a year ago. If anything it's worsened, certainly in terms of populations on the move.

As the crisis has developed over the last year, I have considered whether allowing significant numbers of refugees into European countries could actually make the problem worse. In two ways. Firstly it strengthens the siren calls of the evil people traffickers who have moved in to offer safe passage to EU countries, when the passage is anything but safe -and in many cases a roadway to death. And secondly it removes those who are often the most able and entrepreneurial people from their home areas - the very people who will at some stage be needed to rebuild.

What has nauseated me most has been the behaviour of the media over the last couple of weeks. We have been inundated with anti-migrant headlines for years. During the election, it was the top issue, even in Montgomeryshire, driven in part by media frenzy. For the whole of last week, there was one subject leading the news - the failure of the Govt to bring down net immigration. I did point this out in an interview on Radio Wales this week about comments made by the Home Secretary suggesting only allowing  migrants to move to the UK if they had a job. The reporting confused economic migrants with refugees (and it's the latter that lose out).

The events of last few days has not changed my original view. The British people want a significant number of refugees to be allowed into our country to settle. While I'm not convinced it will improve the position overall, I do think it's worth allowing say 15000 to move here - though I make no suggestion how they should be chosen. It may help. It's almost impossible to decide what to do for the best. I just think the British people want to do something to help beyond the magnificent work the UK Govt has been doing supporting refugees near their home countries (which is where the solution lies). Anyway, I do think we should allow some to come in.


Pete said...

Thanks for writing this Glyn - I fully agree with what you've written as do many thousands of other people in this country. The press is a disgrace on many levels and loves to mislead the reader.

Keep speaking the truth.

Anonymous said...

So, yes I understand this view, I agree we don't have room for every refugee. But Glyn, what is happening with the UN and the wider political landscape to lead to stability for Syria and the war torn IS regions? Who's is funding IS? Why are trade sanctions not in place to prevent IS from being resourced? Surely the UK has to work towards this?I don't see much action? Where are the discussions and actions to build peace in Syria? How can the global ecconomy support peace in these places?

Gwen Prince said...

I have created a petition on 38 degrees asking for Powys to accept 50 refugees. As you have suggested, it might be better to offer to settle persecuted Christian minorities, not becausse of any anti-muslim sentiment but as there are no mosques, muslim communities, and halal meat supplies it may be easier to integrate and welcome them. In my experience with refugees in the past, although most prefer to go to cities where there are already communities to join,when individual families settle in small towns they integrate much better and are personally known, and acepted more easily.

Richard Rendall said...

It seems like the government is only reluctantly agreeing to take action due to massive public pressure.

Iris Gordijn said...

Powys should be open to all Syrian refugees. Practical reasons to prefer only Christians are shallow. What did Christians do in times when there were no churches? They met in a barn, or any other suitable building. Muslims can do that too. As for hallal meat, Wolverhampton and Birmingham are not a million miles away, there are Indian restaurants everywhere run by people who have links to these cities. Furthermore, the number of 50 for a county the size of Powys is pathetic, we have lots of space (which they haven't got in Wolverhampton and Birmingham)