I welcome the statement made this afternoon by the Prime Minister on how the UK government is helping to address the Syrian refugee situation.
The Prime Minister announced that the UK would accept up to 20,000 Syrian refugees over the next 5 years.
Since 2011, the UK has granted humanitarian protection to almost 5,000 Syrians through our normal asylum procedures. A further 216 people have been relocated under the Syrian Vulnerable Persons scheme, a resettlement programme run by the UK to target support for refugees specifically on the basis of their vulnerability, so far.
The UK is the second largest bilateral donor and has allocated £900 million since 2012 to help vulnerable people in Syria and refugees in the region. The Prime Minister also announced a further £100 million on 4 September, taking Britain’s total contribution to over £1 billion. In addition the Royal Navy has now rescued over 6,700 people from the Mediterranean.
The fact that the Prime Minister came to the House to make a statement today, on the first sitting day after summer recess, shows that the Government recognises the need for action on this issue.
I know that the statement will be welcomed by many of my constituents. Over the summer, and particularly the last week, I have received a staggering amount of correspondence on this and it is clearly important to the people of Mid Worcestershire.
The Prime Minister made it clear that Britain can hold its head up high in terms of our record on accepting refugees and international aid. It is simply not true to say that the UK is not doing enough; in many ways we are doing far more than many other European countries.
More than 300,000 people have crossed the Mediterranean to Europe so far this year and some of the pictures we have seen on our television screens and in newspapers have been deeply shocking. With that said I strongly believe a cautious approach is needed and governments in the West must be wary of the unintended consequences of their actions – acting with head as well as heart.
I believe the Government’s approach of taking refugees from Syrian camps rather than those already in Europe to be the right one. This is clearly a difficult and emotive issue but we must not do anything to encourage people to risk the hazardous journey to Europe which has tragically cost so many lives, or indeed to provide further opportunities for those traffickers profiting from human misery.