Friday, April 29, 2016

Differing interpretations of compassion.

"So many corpses are now being washed up on the shores of the Mediterranean that they have stopped making the news". That's how Fraser Nelson begins his excellent article about desperate people (incl children) seeking refuge in Europe in today's Telegraph. I had decided to write no more on this issue, but this article so closely reflects the view I've taken since the beginning of the Syrian conflict that I just had to draw readers attention to it.

People smugglers work under the radar. They don't issue press releases and photographs to make life easy for the media. They don't want to 'make the news'. They prefer to be out of sight- and out of mind. It's one of the greatest new evils of our time. "It's grown to become a huge industry worth about £4 billion a year. This trade in human lives is greatly helped by the prize dangled by panicked politicians that those who survive the journey, and end up on European soil will be granted Asylum. It's a promise born of compassion, but has helped to lure hundreds to their deaths."

Like Fraser, I consider any criticism of our Prime Minister on this issue to totally misplaced. No country has done more to alleviate suffering in Syria, and across the world than the UK. No Govt has made a greater commitment to international help - in the face of constant enemy fire from UKIP, the Daily Mail and others. No politician I've worked with has shown more compassion to desperate people in foreign countries under threat than David Cameron. Britain is giving £2.3 billion to those fleeing war in Syria. The Royal Navy is doing what we can to save people  from the waters of the Mediterranean when the traffickers promises lead to thousands stranded at sea, or in the sea. The UK has given more aid than the rest of Europe put together.

Fraser uses well researched numbers. Syria has 5 million refugees. There are another 7 million displaced from their homes in Syria, forgotten and ignored by the world. These desperate people don't 'make the news'. In Jordon, there are 600,000 Syrian refugees in desperate need. They don't 'make the news' either. The UK Govt is committed to taking 20,000 refugees from the Syrian border. And last week announced we will take another 3,000 unaccompanied children from the area who are on the United Nations 'at risk' register. This is the far and away the most effective, humanitarian, compassionate response - even though I personally would support an increase in the 20,000. 

If politicians bowed to demands from the House of Lords and opposition MPs that the UK take unaccompanied refugee children from France, I would not be desperately distressed. It may help some people. But I do know it would not be the best response to a truly awful situation. It would be allowing compassion to be overtaken by pragmatism and public pressure. It would be to satisfy a demand "to make the news".

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