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We should be doing more to help Syrian refugees

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08 September 2014
We should be doing more to help Syrian refugees Imagine hundreds of people stranded on a barren mountaintop, below them armed bands of thugs and murderers desperate to kill them. Many of these people are starving and ill and some women and children have been captured; some sold into marriage while others are kept as the spoils of war.

This is not an imaginary scene from a disaster film or a description of the Dark Ages, this is a real scene happening right now just beyond the borders of Europe in Iraq and Syria. If you went on holiday this summer to Cyprus, Greece or Turkey then you were closer to this hellish scene than you were to home.

You may have read about the story of a man who had to choose which of his children to leave at the roadside because he was unable to carry them all, or heard the eye-witness reports of decapitated bodies lining the escape routes from Mount Sinjar. You’d be forgiven amid all this chaos for wondering what on earth we can do to help.

The UK is providing aid to the region but with refugee camps full of children – all homeless and many parentless – we could be doing more. As one of the wealthiest countries in the world we should be providing a home for more of these children. 

Last year I was the first MP to ask the Prime Minister whether the UK would increase the number of Syrian refugees given permission to come to the UK. At the time I was casually dismissed. Whilst the Government has now pledged to accept several hundred vulnerable refugees over the next three years, as of June only 50 had arrived. 

In June, Germany agreed to double the number of Syrian refugees accepted to 20,000. Sweden have accepted nearly 25,000 applications according to the UN. In this context I fear the UK simply isn’t pulling its weight.

When we look back on this catastrophe in years to come how will we judge ourselves? Are we happy that anti-immigrant rhetoric should stop us from providing a safe haven to people fleeing horrific persecution or will we step up and do the right thing? 

As a country we rightly pride ourselves on the UK’s decision to give shelter to Jewish refugees 70 years ago. Will this Government place itself on the right side of history or are we content to turn our backs?

This article was originally written for the South London Press and was published on Friday 5th September.

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