The emergency on our doorstep
04 May 2016I recently travelled to Lesbos to see this waterway which is also a graveyard for thousands of people escaping war and poverty in the hope of a better life. This followed myself and Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn visiting the refugee camp in Calais that has become known as the Calais Jungle. The purpose of my visits was both to offer support and to see first-hand what conditions are like for people staying there.
Over a million refugees arrived into southern Europe in 2015; in the first six weeks of this year the rate increased tenfold on the same period last year. This year alone, over 320 of the 77,000 arriving to Greece from Turkey drowned at sea. The number of missing children across Europe has topped 10,000.
It is a scandal that in January David Cameron has rejected calls for Britain to take 3,000 unaccompanied child refugees from Europe. If Europe's lost children cannot galvanise a sustainable response to the continent's migration emergency, what will? And at a recent PMQs, David Cameron added insult to injury by referring to the people at the Calais camp as “a bunch of migrants.”
The government must stop playing into a toxic narrative that claims showing compassion for people who are the victims of poverty and war is wrong because they are really here to take our welfare and do us harm. Britain and the other nations in Europe opting for inaction over refugees must put aside the petty and selfish politics of xenophobia and nostalgia and take action proportionate to the scale of the crisis.
Europe is facing the biggest refugee crisis since the Second World War – it’s a test of our humanity, it’s a test of our principles and it’s a test of genuine European co-operation.
It is vital that Britain shows willingness to take its fair share of the refugees that are already here in Europe. Currently, when these refugees leave the Middle East and arrive in Europe, the UK denies them help. The recent EU-Turkey deal is unacceptable - and shows no sign of easing the crisis What we need is safe and legal routes for refugees. After last summer’s campaigning on the issue and the recent Refugees Welcome Here demonstration, we now need to build up the pressure again.
We must redouble our efforts for fair and humane treatment of refugees, and contribute to a shared European endeavour to bring about an effective and sustainable solution to theemergency on our doorstep.
* From http://labourbriefing.squarespace.com/home/2016/4/25/the-emergency-on-our-doorstep