My recent article for the Ham & High on this Government's inadequate response to the refugee crisis.
Aylan Kurdi was only three years old when his family braved the seas on a treacherous journey to escape war-torn Syria. Many others have made the same journey, but like almost 2,000 people already this year, Aylan, his five year old brother Galip and his mum Rehan didn't make it. His tiny body washed up on a Turkish beach has become a symbol of this deepening humanitarian crisis and rightly drawn attention to the British Government's shameful failure to help refugees fleeing conflict and persecution.
This summer has seen a growing number of appalling stories like Aylan's as children and families risk their lives on dangerous boats and smugglers' lorries because the fear of the journey is less than the fear of staying. This country has a proud history of helping people in need, yet only 216 Syrian refugees have been resettled under the Government's current vulnerable persons relocation scheme - a fraction of the tens of thousands whom Germany and others have helped. We should be taking the lead in drawing up an international response to this growing crisis, instead we stand accused of turning our backs.
People in Hornsey & Wood Green are rightly demanding a more ambitious and compassionate response. In the hours since Aylan Kurdi's picture made headline news, I received hundreds and hundreds of emails from local people appalled and embarrassed by Britain's response and urging me to put pressure on the Government to act. As I write this, over 430,000 people have signed a petition urging the UK to accept more asylum seekers and increase support for refugees here in the UK. Local charities, schools and businesses have started collection centres and a growing number of local authorities, including Haringey, have spoken of their desire to help.
I attended the urgent debate in Parliament this week, but David Cameron's words didn't come close to matching the scale of the crisis we are facing. Refugees need our help now and a promise to take a mere 20,000 over five years falls far short and does little to help those currently trapped in camps or risking the dangerous journey to Europe. I have tabled Parliamentary questions urging that more is done and together with my Labour colleagues Tulip Siddiq MP and Keir Starmer MP, I have written to the Prime Minister calling on the British Government to push, internationally, for a number of practical actions to be taken to address this crisis.
I want to see us joining with our EU partners in reviewing the Dublin Protocol. As part of this, we must also conduct a broader, EU-wide review of all the current international arrangements for refugees. This must include funding appropriate search and rescue operations, and addressing any and all concerns about their treatment on European soil.
In line with other member states, we must take our fair share of those affected by this crisis. Britain’s full participation in the UNHCR programme for Syria’s refugees must be part of this.
Finally, the Government must show leadership in responding to the overwhelming call for action from the British people. Many have contacted me to ask how they can best help or offering space in their home. The Government should be co-ordinating efforts like this across the country to ensure they are as effective as possible and urgently convening a summit of local authorities and NGOs to work out a plan for accommodating Syrian refugees and ensuring sufficient funds are available.
As your MP I will continue to follow this issue very carefully and hold the Government to account for their appalling lack of action. If you agree with me, please sign the official petition to the Government: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/105991