Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Newspaper column 16 September 2015 - The Syrian refugee crisis

This week saw the return of Parliament after the Summer Recess.  The issue that dominated debate in the House of Commons was the refugee crisis. 

The situation with refugees and migrants across the world is a complex issue and there are no quick and easy answers. Recent news has been focused on Syria; the number of people fleeing the civil war, and atrocities by the Assad regime and ISIS.

The UK is playing a major part in the humanitarian relief efforts in the region. We are spending a billion pounds supporting the refugee camps – the second highest contributor to the crisis after the USA. We have also been taking genuine refugees from the camps in the area – a policy that we will continue. I am pleased that the Prime Minister confirmed that the UK will now be taking a further 20,000 Syrian refugees as well as increasing the aid we give to the area.

I also agree with the Prime Minister that the answer is not to simply open our borders and encourage people to come to Europe. It could be argued that by giving this message the German position has exacerbated the issue not helped it.

If we encourage people to leave the safety of the camps in places such as Turkey we are in fact playing into the hands of the people traffickers who charge desperate people high fees to transport them to Europe. 

Those who are able to make the journey to Europe tend to be the younger, stronger and wealthier; they have the physical and financial resources to make the journey. Those in most need are often those who remain in the camps; they are too weak, elderly or sick to travel and cannot afford to pay the cost of the journey. For these reasons I believe that the right policy is to take refugees from the camps rather than encourage people to travel to our borders.

I am also pleased that the Chancellor has confirmed that we will be using our Overseas Aid Budget in order to cover the cost of housing and caring for the refugees in our country. I will continue to support this policy in order to ensure that local services in the areas that accept refugees continue to be funded and undue pressure is not put on services to the detriment of local people.

None of these measures are a long-term solution. We need to address the cause of the Syrian refugee crisis. We need to work towards returning Syria to a safe and stable country where its citizens can live without fear of oppression and harm. I believe we are now at a point where all options should be considered including creating ‘safe zones’ within Syria. Any long-term answer is likely to include sending troops into the country. Just dropping bombs, no matter how targeted will not achieve the required outcomes.

The UK, as part of a joint coalition with other nations, needs to consider what action needs to be taken to bring about the changes needed in Syria for the sake of its citizens.