Over the last week, I have had many constituents contact me voicing their dismay at the dreadful loss of life we have seen in recent months with people attempting to cross the Mediterranean, along with harrowing images of children drowned at sea and washed up on beaches and people suffocated to death in smuggler’s lorries.
I have long believed that the Government must be doing more to help Syrian refugees fleeing the civil war, and threat of ISIS, and it is shameful that the Government’s Vulnerable Person’s Relocation Scheme has only relocated 216 Syrians since it was launched, despite countries like Germany who have pledged humanitarian protection to 20,000 Syrian nationals under the UN High Commissioner for Refugee’s scheme, and a further 15,000 places have been offered to Syrians in Germany through individual sponsorships.
It is clear that this is now one of the worst humanitarian crises Europe has faced since the Second World War and the way we respond to this crisis will be a test of the British values of compassion and decency we hold so dear.
As a result of these values we hold so closely, and the concerted pressure mounted on the Prime Minister, he has finally announced that an additional 20,000 places will be made available in the UK for Syrian refugees. These refugees will be taken from camps in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey and resettled here in the UK over the next five years.
I welcome that the Government have finally changed their position, after dragging their heels, but I do not believe these plans match up to the scale of immediacy of the crisis already.
These refugees need help now and five years may be too long for many vulnerable refugees who are living in these camps.
There are still questions to answer over how many refugees we will take this year and I believe the Prime Minister should reconsider his opposition to taking refugees from Southern European countries who are bearing the brunt of this crisis.
More widely, I would like to see the Prime Minister engaging with EU leaders to agree a process for dealing with this crisis at Europe’s borders and to work to develop a proper integration plan to ensure refugees and local communities have the support they need.
This should also be partnered with the Government upgrading Britain’s role in search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean, as well as redoubling our efforts to tackle the traffickers and people smugglers who prey on people’s fear and desperation.
Therefore, as requested, I have written to the Prime Minister asking him to step up the UK’s efforts to address this catastrophic humanitarian crisis.
I will post the response I receive on my website.
I would like to thank constituents for for contacting me.
I can assure you that I will continue to follow this matter very carefully.
If you are a constituent, please don’t hesitate to contact me about this matter on [email protected]
Statement last updated 11/09/2015
Text of letter to Prime Minister here:
Dear Prime Minister,
Over the summer we have seen account after account of men, women and children escaping their war-torn countries and seeking sanctuary here in the West and in the last week, I have had a large number of constituents write to me voicing their anguish at the scenes across Europe.
This has only been exacerbated by scenes of children drowning at sea and being washed up on the shores of the Mediterranean, along with people suffocating in the back of smugglers’ vans. It is clear that this cannot continue.
We can no longer sit back idly and watch as people unnecessarily die. As many of my constituents have written in and said to me, it is our moral duty to do something by taking in more refugees than we have already taken. Britain is a country that has a proud history of welcoming refugees and asylum seekers, however we are betraying this history by sitting back and not doing enough.
I welcomed your announcement that the UK will now take up to 20,000 refugees over the next five years after the public outcry here in the UK. However, the precise details of this announcement have not been made clear.
Due to the immediacy of dealing with this crisis, my constituents and I would therefore be grateful if you could outline how many refugees will be offered sanctuary here in the UK by the end of this year, along with what immediate effort the Government is taking to tackling the dangerous conditions that smugglers and people traffickers are putting these vulnerable people in, along with increasing our search and rescue efforts in the Mediterranean so that we don’t see more lives lost.
I would also be grateful to know what plans you have in place to work with our EU partners to deal with the crisis at Europe’s borders and how you are going to engage with local councils, the devolved nations and civil society here in the UK to help support these refugees and asylum seekers.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Sharon Hodgson MP