Thank heavens we are now calling it a refugee crisis as opposed to the “migrant crisis” or “immigrant crisis”.
60% of these people are escaping from Syria, and when Assad is a better option than Islamic State, who can blame them?
One aspect that sickens me more than most is how several right-wing UK newspapers have suddenly changed their tune, shamed by the most horrific images this week of dead children. Yet some of these papers – you know who they are – were carrying articles just weeks ago saying we shouldn’t care if these immigrants drown, and that we should use gunships to stop immigrants. Absolutely disgusting.
But that is the level of debate we have been reduced to on immigration in this country, where humans are no longer considered humans.
Labour has been calling on the government to do more to help Syrian refugees for over 18 months, having first raised the issue in December 2013 and we also included a commitment to support Syrian refugees in our manifesto.
Andy Burnham and Yvette Cooper had already called for the UK to step up to our responsibilities and I know that this week, Labour leader Harriet Harman has written to David Cameron. She has suggested to Mr Cameron:
- To agree now that Britain will take more refugees both directly from Syria and from the Southern European countries where most refugees have arrived
- To convene an urgent meeting of EU leaders next week to agree a process for resolving the immediate refugee crisis on Europe’s borders
- To convene an urgent meeting of COBRA so that a cross-government plan can be agreed and implemented. This is now a problem that spans beyond the Home Office, affecting transport, small business, tourism and our local communities. We urgently need ministers to come together and agree a plan
- To bring together a summit of local authority leaders to agree what more can be done locally to support refugees and asylum seekers - as you know many councils are keen to do more, but lack an agreed framework for doing so.
In addition I am working with Labour backbench colleagues today on a further parliamentary route to call for more support for refugees. We will see how that develops when Parliament returns early next week.
The horrors of news reports from so-called Islamic State territory appear to have blinded us to the fact that most Syrians, and Iraqis, are just like us: people who want to live a good life in safety and comfort with their family. That it takes a picture of a dead child on a beach to remind people of that is a matter of shame. Let’s hope that we can now consign this bogus debate about immigration to the dustbin of history and focus efforts on these fellow human beings who need our help.