We are morally and legally obliged to, and our international standing depends on itby Claire Spencer / September 7, 2016 / Leave a comment
The sign of an open society, assured of its own values, can be seen in the compassion it shows to others in dire circumstances and need. The UK’s self-confidence in this respect was suffering even before the referendum campaign on membership of the European Union. Last week, record numbers of migrants and refugees were rescued from unseaworthy vessels in the Mediterranean, seemingly undeterred by attempts to prevent their crossing. After more than two years of such arrivals, no enduring solution has been found to manage the destiny of this mixed group of South East Asians, Africans and Middle Easterners.
In September 2015, former Prime Minister David Cameron officially undertook to resettle up to 20,000 Syrians from Middle Eastern refugee camps in the UK. He made a further commitment in May 2016 to take children stranded unaccompanied elsewhere in Europe, notably at the Jungle camp in Calais. The first undertaking had the force of a moral obligation, as well as the aim of dissuading refugees from the perilous sea-voyages that have claimed so many lives over Syria’s five year conflict. It was also intended to send a clear message to both the refugees and to the British public that the UK would not encourage human trafficking to these shores.
Last week, the new Home Secretary Amber Rudd and her French counterpart Bernard Cazeneuve reaffirmed the commitment to border security, especially at Calais. Meanwhile, progress on the target of 20,000 Syrian refugees—4,000 a year until 2020—has been slow, bogged down in the lengthy process of identifying and transferring individuals to the UK. Despite a number of local authorities claiming to be ready, the lack of council funding, capacity and housing has seen only 2,800 arrivals so far. Funds are not lacking on the prevention side, however: the British government has already spent €100m on tightening the defences of Calais.