This letter concerns the ongoing refugee crisis caused by the Syrian Civil War, one of the worst humanitarian disasters since WWII. This letter was not only addressed to my MP, but also my MEPs, and was sent via WriteToThem.
Available figures from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimate that of the total refugees from the Syrian Civil War, Turkey has accepted over two million, Lebanon over one million, Jordan over 600,000, Egypt over 130,000, and Algeria over 25,000. Even Iraq, which is facing a civil war of its own, has taken in over 240,000 refugees.
By contrast, most European nations have barely lifted a finger to help those in need of sanctuary. At the borders of Southern Europe, refugees have been subjected to police brutality, abuse by citizens, a media campaign of demonization, and the sneers of uninterested politicians like the EU’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, who recently said she was “fed up” of being asked to understand their suffering. Right now, Sweden, Iceland and Germany are the only three nations demonstrating any compassion towards these people.
I know selfishness and inhumanity are common virtues in this country, as evidenced by the Cameron government’s hostility towards the poor, but isn’t it about time we took in our fair share of refugees, who are human just like we are? I have heard economical arguments that suggest Britain “can’t afford” to take in any more vulnerable people, and while I wholeheartedly disagree with that assessment, I do not think it matters anyway. The people fleeing the Assad regime, the rebels, and ISIS are all human beings who deserve basic protections from war, atrocities, and extreme suffering, and it is our duty to help them.
The 1951 Refugee Convention is quite clear that we as a nation have obligations to lend a hand to those who are drowning, quite literally, in the Mediterranean. Furthermore, if economic arguments were so important, how has Lebanon managed to take in over one million refugees, when its inept sectarian government can’t provide basic services to citizens already living there?
Today I ask you to do one thing: Stand up in Parliament (either EU or Westminster – this email is to all my representatives) and immediately demand that we put in place a system that allows refugees from places like Syria, Iraq and Libya to have safe refuge in European countries. I ask you to tell your respective chambers that the negligence of the EU is costing thousands of people their lives, and it must not go on, lest we all be implicated in their deaths. You have the power to pressure those in charge, and you must do so. It is beyond despicable that the EU, which models itself on freedom and tolerance for all, is turning its back on some of the most disenfranchised and impoverished people in the world. I want you to help these people – will you?
Sion Simon, Labour MEP: Replied after 3 days.
Thanks for your email about the refugee crisis in Europe.
We’ve all been appalled by the pictures of children drowning on European shores, and by stories of people suffocated to death in smugglers’ lorries. I strongly believe this is now the most serious humanitarian crisis since the Second World War.
The time has come to take meaningful steps to end the tragic loss of life at European borders.
The EU must do what it was brought into existence to do by showing solidarity between members, and proving to the rest of the world that the EU is a union of values. The EU must present itself as capable of managing a migration policy with fair rules, the utmost compassion, and the rule of the law.
Ahead of the emergency migration summit on September 14th, it’s crucial that the UK shows international solidarity and opts-in to key measure to help refugees coming to Europe.
Next week the European Parliament will vote on proposals made by the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs committee calling for the equitable distribution of refugees across the European Union. I want to make it clear that along with fellow Labour MEPs I’ll continue to push for a critical upgrade of the EU’s response on the refugee crisis.
Outside of the European Parliament I’ve also been doing my bit to support refugees in Calais. Last Friday I stopped by the refugee camp on my way back to the UK to drop off some supplies for those in need. You can find out more about my trip by clicking here.
Thanks again for getting in touch with me about this important issue.
Dan Dalton, Conservative MEP: Replied after four days.
Thank you for your email regarding the terrible plight of refugees and the ongoing tragedies that are unfolding in the Mediterranean and in South-Eastern Europe.
Britain has voluntarily agreed to take more refugees due to the crisis in the Mediterranean, as recently announced by Prime Minister David Cameron. I also firmly believe that more aid and help on the ground in refugee camps in the Middle East and North Africa is a vital component in tackling the current crisis, Britain is already providing significant resources to support the refugees there, and this support is being increased, something I welcome very much indeed.
The solutions to the current crisis obviously go well beyond the shores of the European Union, and deeper engagement and help in the countries people are leaving for Europe from remains the only long-term realistic way to help protect innocent civilians in the Middle East.
I hope the above is helpful to you in explaining my position on this tragic situation.
Neena Gill, Labour MEP: Replied after 32 days.
Thank you for raising your concerns about Europe’s ongoing refugee crisis. I note your concerns.
We’re facing the biggest refugee crisis since World War II in Europe, and it’s deeply worrying that EU member states have failed to agree an organised response. Time is most definitely not on our side. I spoke on the refugee crisis in the European Parliament’s Strasbourg plenary session last month expressing my concern at the 3,000 unaccompanied children that have arrived in Europe in recent months. It is on exactly this issue that HRM Queen Elisabeth II – now the longest reigning British monarch in history – spoke compassionately in her first ever speech, calling for protection of British children escaping the dangers of WWII.
The EU urgently needs a cohesive plan to manage the reception and redistribution of migrants arriving both through the Mediterranean and now increasingly across land borders.
The EU must do what it was brought in existence to do – show solidarity between members, and show the rest of the world that the EU is a union of values – that it is capable of managing a migration policy with fair rules, compassion, and the rule of law. Ahead of the emergency migration summit on September 14, it is crucial that the UK shows international solidarity and opts-in to key measures to help refugees coming to Europe.
Last month, the European Parliament supported the European Commission in its push for a binding system to help the countries most exposed to the refugee crisis – notably Greece, Italy and Hungary – by proposing to relocate 120,000 people in clear need of international protection to other EU Member States. This was on top of the 40,000 that the Commission proposed in May to relocate from Greece and Italy. On Monday, individual EU member states blocked the proposal though.
Thank you again for taking the time to express your concerns.
Craig Tracey, Conservative MP: Reply time unclear – MP publishes responses on his website with no date.
Thank you for contacting me about Syrian refugees.
The UK is one of the leading providers in foreign aid and the Prime Minister has recently announced that 20,000 Syrian refugees will be welcomed to the UK over the next five years. Britain continues to be at the forefront of the international response to the humanitarian crisis in Syria – including as the second biggest bilateral donor of humanitarian aid, having already pledged £1 billion. Some £60 million of the additional funding will help Syrians who are still in Syria.
I know that Britain is a moral nation and we will fulfil our moral responsibilities. That is why we sent the Royal Navy to the Mediterranean, saving thousands of lives; why we meet our commitment to spend 0.7 per cent of our economy on aid; why Britain is the second biggest bilateral donor in the world to Syrian refugee camps; and why since the crisis began we have granted asylum to nearly 5,000 Syrians and their dependents through normal procedures.
However, It is important to differentiate between genuine refugees in need and economic migrants.
We must reach a balance as to the number of migrants that are allowed into this country – there is an impact on the NHS, schools, and other public services which we must be aware of.
I appreciate your concern with this issue. Recent photos are clearly shocking and harrowing. This is why we continue to be at the forefront of the international response to the humanitarian crisis in Syria.
As you will know, the Vulnerable Persons Relocations scheme (VPRS) is already up and running, and has already welcomed 216 Syrians to the UK. This scheme will make a real difference to the lives of some of the most vulnerable Syrians by giving them protection and support in the UK.
The Prime Minister has proposed that Britain should resettle up to 20,000 Syrian refugees over the next five years. These refugees will come straight from the camps in the Middle East to discourage refugees from taking the perilous journey across the Mediterranean. To support our local communities we will use the foreign aid budget to finance these refugees for the first year and help local councils with things like housing. In the longer term, we will continue to direct our additional aid spending to these failed states and to the refugee crisis. The Prime Minister has also appointed a new Minister for Refugees, who will be solely responsible for overseeing the work welcoming these refugees to the UK.
Simply taking people is not a solution to this crisis. We need a comprehensive solution that deals with the people most responsible for the terrible scenes we see: President Assad in Syria, the butchers of ISIL, and the criminal gangs that are running this terrible trade in people – we have to be as tough on them at the same time.
Anthea McIntyre, Conservative MEP: No reply received (yet).
James Carver, UKIP MEP: No reply received (yet).
Bill Etheridge, UKIP MEP: No reply received (yet).