Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Why I oppose taking Syrian refugees from France

Over the last few days I have received 31 email from constituents critical of my opposition to the UK Govt, allowing 3000 unaccompanied refugee children to enter the UK from France. Those sending these emails accuse me of acting shamefulIy and inhumanely. There has also been a vitriolic deeply offensive campaign of abuse on Twitter expressing the same views. I disagree with this criticism. I think it is not based on even a basic understanding of the issues involved. Now I'm not that bothered about the Twitter trolling, but I have written a standard response to the 31 constituents who have contacted me by email. And I've posted it here.

"I have been considering the proper response to the refugee situation in Syria for months now. It is the worst refugee problem I've ever known, and probably ranks second only to World War Two.  It's why I've discussed it with politicians (Conservative and Labour) who gave been out to the refugee camps on the Syrian border, where there are millions of refugees surviving in the most appalling conditions. In Syria itself, hundreds of thousands have been murdered, sometimes by poison gas. We're told 10 million Syrians have been displaced from their homes and around 40 towns the size of Malada are besieged and being starved to death. 500,000 being starved to death!! This is why I've believed the UK must do everything possible to help them. The best support the UK can give is to use the international aid budget to help in the camps. The UK is incredibly generous. I am very proud of this.

I've also believed the UK should offer a home to some of the refugees, and was saying so well before it featured as a leading item on UK News. Though I accept what we could do would be no more than an example to the world rather than anything having more than a minuscule impact. 

But I have never supported the UK taking refugees from France or other European countries. Bearing in mind how much abuse I and other MPs have received by taking this view, it would have been far far easier just to take 3000 unaccompanied children from France. But I also know it would be totally wrong. It would be setting aside my clear judgement about the best humanitarian response, just for an easier life. That is not what an MP should. We are elected to do what's right.

France is not a third world country. France is a modern compassionate European country, similar to the UK. Syria is a war zone, where refugees and children are living under constant threat of death, in truly appalling conditions. Any willingness by the UK to take in refugees should be focused entirely on the Middle East and North Africa. That is the best humanitarian response. And it's also the case that taking refugees from France will inadvertently give encouragement to the refugee traffickers and criminal gangs sending desperate people across the Mediterranean, putting their lives in great peril. It did not need a photograph of a dead Syrian boy on a Mediterranean beach to tell me that. I already knew that. 

If the Govt position changed, to accept Lord Dubs latest amendment, it would indeed make life easier for me. And of course it would be welcomed by refugees in France. But it would be wrong. It would be totally wrong. It would be running away from responsibility in the face of criticism. I simply cannot do that. Sorry this has been such a lengthy email.  
Best wishes, Glyn"

1 comment:

Nicola said...

Could you back up your claim that the UNHCR has officially recommended that the UK government NOT accept these unaccompanied refugee children from the rest of Europe? It is my understanding that this is not the UNHCR position at all. It is certainly not the position of Save the Children and other charities, who have condemned your actions.

The Home Office’s announcement that the UK will resettle 3,000 children currently living in the Middle East and North Africa does not go beyond separate proposals announced in January this year. The MENA resettlement plans are obviously great and should be applauded. But it does not follow on that helping children in Europe should signify a loss of focus on MENA refugee camps. Only you seem to be suggesting that. To further suggest that people disagreeing with you are 'shutting their eyes to the horrors of the camps' is simply not true. Or do you mean the camps in Europe?

I would not say that France is a 'sympathetic' country, or really that civilised when it comes to dealing with vulnerable refugee children. Have you visited the camps in Calais and Dunkirk? Minors currently residing there are not automatically given child protection within the French system. When the French bulldozed part of the camp, 129 children went missing. Are they less important than the children you'd prefer to help? Unaccompanied children are also regularly attempting to cross the channel illegally, night after night, in the most dangerous ways imaginable. How does this fit in with the 'not wanting to put people's lives at risk' narrative?

Genuine question: What would it take for you to change your mind? A different stance by the UNHCR? A specific number of letters from your constituents? Would you like more information about the experiences of abuse and the living conditions of the children the amendment might have helped?