Thursday, 10 September 2015

Syrian Refugee Crisis

Over the last week the Syrian refugee crisis finally broke into the public consciousness with the heart wrenching picture of a Syrian toddler who drowned with his brother and mother while their family was attempting to make it to Greece.  The Syrian civil war has been running for several years and some four million people have fled the country with many desperate families putting their trust in people-traffickers and trying cross the Mediterranean in overloaded and dangerous boats.

I have received a great deal of correspondence from constituents on the matter. I think there are three things we need to do.  Firstly we need to offer sanctuary to those refugees in immediate need of asylum, but to do so in a way that does not encourage more families to risk their lives. That is why David Cameron was right to say that we will offer sanctuary to thousands more refugees, but take them from refugee camps in Syria and the surrounding states so that we don't encourage people to put their lives at risk trying to enter Europe illegally. 

Secondly, this is a moment when our aid budget can really come into its own.  Britain is already the second largest donor of funds to alleviate the refugee crisis in Syria and we can direct more funds to help support those neighbouring states provide refugees with shelter, food and medical treatment.  

Finally, in the longer term, the problem will only be solved once the civil war ends. I voted in favour of air strikes in Syria in 2013 because I think, had we intervened early, we could have brought the conflict to an earlier close with a moderate group forming a new government.  Haunted by memories of Iraq and Afghanistan, parliament hesitated.  A year later, in a separate vote, parliament limited the authorisation for targeted RAF bombing against ISIS extremists to Iraq only, not Syria.  While we should use force with caution,  there are definitely times when military intervention is the right thing to do and the best way to help vulnerable people suffering the consequences of an enduring civil war.