My response to the Syrian refugee crisis

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.

Showing 9 reactions

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.
  • commented 2015-09-09 07:49:48 +0100
    Simon, perhaps we should start with a plan that cuts off all funding and black market trade with these organised criminals (ISIL). Who is propping them up and who is buying the oil they now control? Eradicating poverty and corruption is the only sustainable option if we want to create a more peaceful and stable world.
  • commented 2015-09-08 20:11:53 +0100
    What Simon Eardley has done is merely state the facts that speak for themselves (and demonstrate action before the most recent events):

    - That the Royal Navy was sent to the Mediterranean to help save thousands of lives;
    - That the Conservatives in government are meeting their commitment to spend 0.7% of our economy on aid;
    - That Britain is the second biggest bilateral donor in the world to Syrian refugee camps;
    - That Britain has already given protection to thousands of Syrian refugees;
    - That Britain will now do more to resettle many thousands of Syrian refugees, as we should, it being the right and moral thing to do.

    I’m grateful that we have a Prime Minister who is also prepared to take the hardest decisions imaginable in allowing the authorisation of action to kill terrorists who were members of ISIL in August. If the Government return to the House of Commons for a vote proposing Britain joins coalition strikes in Syria, I hope Chester’s MP will do the right thing and back this action to deal with the wider and grave terror threat presented by ISIL. I would be interested to know his views on this matter.
  • commented 2015-09-08 18:02:37 +0100
    Well done Chris.
    The Tory Government were outrageous the way they referred to these refugees.
    What they are doing now is too little.
    The Labour Party need to stand up strongly for these people.
  • commented 2015-09-08 18:01:52 +0100
    Simon Eardley has swallowed the Number 10 line without questioning it. Far from what he is saying, out of the £1 billion, two thirds hasn’t been spent, and it also includes funds allocated for an undefined future period. The cash is less than Germany has committed for this year, never mind the cost Germany is paying for taking in all the refugees.
    This crisis may not have occurred had Cameron not insisted Assad be removed from power before there is a peace conference. This delay, which has been caused entirely by this crazy foreign policy, has allowed Isis to take over much of Syria and is driving millions of people into Europe. The immigration policy is a shambles. It is about time Cameron got his head out of the sand and took some action.
    And now we have Cameron acting as Judge and Jury and authorising political assassinations of Isis members. Even terrorists deserve a fair trial, this country abolished the death penalty 50 years ago
  • commented 2015-09-08 17:53:05 +0100
    Chris you were absolutely right to point to the hypocracy demonstrated by the government and thier friends from the right wing press once public opinion moved towards a far more positive and humanitarian response. Well done and well said.
  • commented 2015-09-08 17:39:12 +0100
    Well done Chris. The point you made in Parliament yesterday regarding the press and the way they have changed their position on reporting this issue had to be said. They have only done so in light of public opinion and the graphic images that we will all remember for generations to come. This Government is the same.

    Simon Eardley lays down some big promises from the Prime Minister but when the people wanted action, the Government was slow to react. Like the right wing press, this Government is out of touch with the people whose opinions they claim to represent.
  • commented 2015-09-07 22:30:45 +0100
    It is a pity you don’t comment on what the UK government has already done / is doing, in addition to the assistance the Prime Minister announced today. Perhaps, for balance, your readers might reflect on the following words from the debate that you were present at and regrettably chose to make party political points when invited to ask a question:

    “Britain is doing, and will continue to do, all those things. We are using our aid budget to alleviate poverty and suffering in the countries from which these people are coming. We are the only major country in the world that has kept the promise to spend 0.7% of our GDP on aid. We are already the second largest bilateral donor of aid to the Syrian conflict, including by providing more than 18 million food rations, giving 1.6 million people access to clean water and providing education to a quarter of a million children. Last week, we announced a further £100 million, taking our total contribution to over £1 billion. That is the UK’s largest ever response to a humanitarian crisis.

    Some £60 million of the additional funding will help Syrians who are still in Syria. The rest will go to neighbouring countries—Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon—where Syrian refugees now account for a quarter of the population. More than half of the new funding will support children, with a particular priority placed on those who have been orphaned or separated from their families. No other European country has come close to this level of support. Without Britain’s aid to the camps, the numbers attempting the dangerous journey to Europe would be very much higher.

    As my right hon. Friend the Chancellor said yesterday, we will now go much further in the spending review, significantly reshaping the way we use our aid budget to serve our national interest. We will invest even more in tackling the causes of the crisis in the middle east and north Africa, and we will hold much larger sums in reserve to respond to acute humanitarian crises as they happen." David Cameron, House of Commons, 07/09/15.
  • commented 2015-09-07 21:10:57 +0100
    Great to hear! We need to take action ASAP
  • commented 2015-09-07 14:51:37 +0100
    Keep at them Chris, we can afford to help :)