Hilary Benn: I shall address directly the hon. Gentleman’s point about the wider challenge of the movement of human beings around the globe, because he is right to raise it and it is important that we consider it. However,

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the specific question I am addressing in this part of my speech is what we do now to help those who are fleeing Syria, including those who have made the perilous journey to our shores.

Ms Diane Abbott (Hackney North and Stoke Newington) (Lab): Does my right hon. Friend agree that citing the possibility that hundreds of millions of people may be on the move as an argument against taking our fair share from the current migrant crisis is dishonest and an argument for doing very little, possibly nothing at all?

Hilary Benn: I agree with my hon. Friend, who makes the point that this debate is about taking our fair share. The Government have moved to acknowledge that, which I welcome.

Tomorrow my right hon. Friend the Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford will meet representatives of local authorities, and we now hear that the Government will meet representatives of the Local Government Association on Friday. If we are going to take on this responsibility, which we should, it is important that all of us, including Parliament and all local authorities—not just some—and charities, voluntary organisations and communities do our bit and play our part in making this happen.

Picking up on the point made by the International Development Secretary, we also need to persuade other countries to play their part in giving their share of humanitarian aid. The United Nations has warned about lack of funding for essential supplies. In July the World Food Programme—I echo every single word the International Development Secretary said about that extraordinary organisation, with which I too had the privilege of working when I held her position—announced that it had halved the value of the food vouchers being given to Syrian refugees in Lebanon because it does not have enough money to continue giving as much as before. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees reports that ration cuts, lack of electricity and people who are sick and cannot get treatment for themselves or their children are reasons given by refugees for making the journey to Europe.

Although we are understandably focusing on Syria today, as we speak another hidden humanitarian catastrophe is unfolding in Yemen, where according to the International Committee of the Red Cross just under 13 million people are food-insecure and 500,000 children are severely malnourished.

Keith Vaz: As my right hon. Friend knows, I am one of three Members who were born in Yemen, and as chair of the all-party group on Yemen for a number of years I have been very concerned about the situation. Does he agree that it is extremely important that none of the aid that will be spent here as a result of the Syrian refugee crisis should be diverted away from Yemen at this critical time in its history?

Hilary Benn: I agree with my right hon. Friend, who is very knowledgeable about that country. I am sure that is the Government’s position. The practical problem in relation to aid to Yemen is access. Concerns have been expressed that some of the aid is being used for purposes

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connected with the nature of the conflict. Humanitarian aid should be given to people on the basis of need, not on the basis of which side of the conflict they happen to be on or find themselves on because of where they happen to live at any particular moment.

I say to the Government that Britain’s proud record on humanitarian aid gives us particular authority, which I know the International Development Secretary uses, to speak out and urge other countries to do their bit. We cannot run the international humanitarian system on the basis of insecure and intermittent funding. That will not work.

Mrs Anne Main (St Albans) (Con): My concern is that if we are to speak with authority and ensure that the support these families need is delivered, the process needs to be ongoing. We need sustainable, ongoing community support for people who are traumatised, who need language skills and who need school places. That is vital and all Members on both sides of the House need to support local authorities.

Hilary Benn: The hon. Lady is absolutely right. The Government will use the international development budget, as the official development assistance rules allow, in the first year to support local authorities, but she raises the question of what will happen the following year. I have no doubt that one of the first questions local authorities will ask Ministers when they meet will be, “If you’re going to help us in the first year, how are we going to sustain that support?” Every one of us knows the extraordinary pressure that local authority budgets are under.

Turning to the cause of the crisis, the Prime Minister was right to say that it will be solved only when peace and stability return to Syria. Despite considerable efforts, no progress has been made and yesterday the UN envoy, Staffan de Mistura, said there was no more time for a long political process, and he is right. He urged Saudi Arabia and Iran finally to start talking to each other, as Russia, the United States and other countries are doing. We need an urgent diplomatic effort, under the auspices of the United Nations, to work out a future for Syria. It is time that Syria’s neighbours started trying to solve the conflict instead of continuing to fuel it. They should also discuss—I understand that this is extremely difficult in Syria—whether it is possible to establish safe havens to help those who are fleeing violence, and they should talk about the humanitarian funding crisis that we have just discussed.

We also have a responsibility, as part of the international coalition, to defeat ISIL/Daesh, politically and militarily, and to confront its brutal ideology. We should be unashamed in proclaiming our values of openness and respect for others in direct opposition to its brutality and ignorance, which have forced so many people to flee for their lives. One of the best ways in which we can give expression to the best of British values is to welcome and take in those who have fled, because we have a long and honourable tradition as a nation of giving shelter to those fleeing further persecution.

Bob Stewart (Beckenham) (Con): I thank my right hon. Friend for allowing me to intervene. What really concerns me is that within Syria there are huge numbers of would-be refugees. In my experience people who

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have no resources whatsoever, who are traumatised and terrified and who are being beaten up and killed are stuck. It is our duty, as the shadow Secretary of State has said, to sort out what is happening on the ground in Syria as part of an international effort.

Hilary Benn: I agree with the hon. Gentleman, who has great experience in these matters and is a true humanitarian. We need to put as much effort as possible into putting pressure on those who hold in their hands the future of this conflict and its resolution.

I want to reflect on what else this crisis and the wider points it raises tell us. It shows us that the Dublin agreement, which says that people entering Europe should seek asylum in the first country in which they arrive, and the Schengen agreement, which allows free movement but does not apply to the United Kingdom, are both creaking at the seams. It is unsustainable—this was the argument I made to the hon. Member for North Dorset (Simon Hoare) when he intervened earlier—for some countries, just because of their geographical position, to bear the full weight of responsibility for refugees when they clearly cannot cope.

It shows us that the idea that leaving the European Union would somehow make the problem go away is absolute nonsense. A refugee fleeing with her family and her children is not suddenly going to stop at Calais and say, “Ah! Britain’s not in the European Union any more. I’m not going to take another step forward.”

It reminds us that we live in an increasingly interdependent world: what happens in one country will affect all of us who live in another country, even if we happen to be far away. In the 21st century we cannot, as human beings, shut the doors and close the curtains and wish that the rest of the world would go away.

Nicola Blackwood (Oxford West and Abingdon) (Con): Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Hilary Benn: I will give way and then I will bring my remarks to a conclusion.

Nicola Blackwood: A fleeing refugee will stop in the first place they feel safe, and the problem is that many refugees do not feel safe in the camps we are providing. We need to address the insecurity for women and girls in many of the camps. This is a short, medium and long-term problem that we are not yet solving.

Hilary Benn: The hon. Lady is absolutely right. Reflecting on my experience of visiting refugee camps in Darfur, that was absolutely the issue. Women were going out to collect firewood and were being attacked or raped. We must provide security. I know that the Government have done a lot of work on that issue in recent times and, again, I applaud them for that. It is more complicated than people thinking, “We are in a place where those who were killing us and who led us to flee are no longer to be found.” Insecurity is about how people feel in their minds about whether they, their family and their children are safe.

We are in this together and the way forward has to be through co-operation with our neighbours, including the rest of the European Union. We are confronted with the painful truth that the world has to be much more effective in dealing with conflicts like this before they

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turn into brutal and bloody civil wars. The responsibility to protect was meant to be about that, but let us be honest: in Syria, no responsibility has been taken and nobody has been protected.

We have to recognise that as well as refugees—I come to the point made by the hon. Member for Gravesham (Mr Holloway)—many, many other people are seeking to move across the globe to find a better life, in part because of conflict. They are coming not just from Syria, but from Eritrea, Afghanistan, Iraq, Nigeria, Somalia, Sudan and other countries where there is poverty and a lack of economic opportunity. We talk about economic migration, but that is the story of human history.

Mr Holloway: As a television reporter, I lived in the Sangatte camp in Calais and joined people who were being ethnically cleansed in the Balkans. There is an enormous difference between an economic migrant and a refugee. Surely the Prime Minister is absolutely right to focus our cash on places where we know people are refugees and on looking after them, rather than exposing our borders to hundreds of millions of people who are making the perfectly rational decision to seek a better life in Europe.

Hilary Benn: I am well aware that there is a difference; that is precisely the point I am making. However, I am trying to make a broader point about the challenge that this small and fragile planet of ours is facing and will face increasingly over the years ahead.

I am making the point that our human story is a story of economic migration. Whether anyone would describe William the Conqueror as an economic migrant, I do not know, but America, the land of my mother’s birth, certainly was built on economic migration. The story of movement within the European Union is also one of economic migration.

We must look ahead. The world’s population is 7.2 billion people. It is forecast that by the end of this century, it will be 11 billion people. Look at how the population of Nigeria is going to grow. We can already see the tensions and conflicts in countries across north Africa that are created by a lack of jobs, lack of hope and lack of opportunity. We see a generation in those countries who are looking at other parts of the world and seeing opportunity, jobs and hope for the future because of technology. This is the century in which every single one of us is having to lift our eyes to look beyond our own borders and see the lives of others.

Then there is the threat of global climate change. If people can no longer live where they were born because their houses are under water or because there is no water any more, they will do what human beings have done throughout human history: they will move to try to find a life somewhere else. The wave of economic migration we have seen in Europe these past few summers will be as nothing compared with the wave that is to come if we do not act on these issues—to tackle climate change, to fight conflict, to promote economic development and to fight poverty—so that people can build a life for themselves and their families in the land in which they were born.

All of these things are the expression of the fundamental interdependence of humankind. We will not be able to deal with them if we pull up the drawbridge, if we say

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that we have done enough, if we think that they are somebody else’s responsibility or if we deny entry to some people because they are supposedly of the wrong religion.

I spoke at the beginning about the reality of the mass movement of refugees, but the rest of us have to face our own painful reality. There has been unanimity of purpose and the expression of generosity so far in this debate, but let us be honest that there are other voices in Europe that are not so generous and who say, “It is too hard for us to help those in trouble.” We have a responsibility to say to them, “It is infinitely harder for those whose lives have been changed by circumstance— war, famine, disease—in the most profound way.” Our job—the Government’s job—is to tell the truth and to lead, because by doing so we have the best chance of giving full expression to that fundamental wish to help that represents the best of our character as human beings.

2.15 pm

Gareth Johnson (Dartford) (Con): Clearly, this is the worst problem that faces Europe and, quite possibly, the world at the moment.

I listened carefully to the speech by the hon. Member for Moray (Angus Robertson). There is a lot of agreement between his party and the Government. Putting compassion at the heart of our response is central. The Scottish National party wants there to be a compassionate approach and so do the Government. The disagreement is about how we implement the mechanisms to improve the situation for the Syrian people and those who live in neighbouring countries.

I think that we would all accept that there are no simple solutions to this problem, but we need to tackle the problem at source in order to deal with it effectively. We cannot tackle the problems that Syria faces exclusively from outside Syria. We have to go to the root of the problem. We will not find solutions to Syria’s problems in Europe. The downside of encouraging refugees to come into this country and processing them here is that it gives a green light to people smugglers and those who wish to exploit refugees further.

Stuart C. McDonald: Is that not the crux of the debate about the balance between relocation and resettlement? Over the past couple of days, I have heard from a number of Government Members the idea that by taking part in EU relocation programmes, we will incentivise other people to make the journey across the Mediterranean. However, the UK has been making it clear for weeks that it will not take part in relocation schemes and it has not deterred a single person from making the crossing. Whatever the terms of the debate, this myth should not be part of it.

Gareth Johnson: I would argue that if we send out a green light to people by saying that if they come over to mainland Europe, they will find sanctuary, there is a huge danger that we will inadvertently encourage people to make the perilous journey that has cost so many lives. It is clear that if we suggest to people that all will be well if they come over the Mediterranean to mainland Europe,

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it will encourage more people to take the journey and hundreds more people will die in the boats, as has happened before.

Mark Durkan (Foyle) (SDLP): Does the hon. Gentleman not accept that that was exactly the catastrophic rationale that lay at the heart of the decision in autumn 2014 to suspend Mare Nostrum? That decision was taken on the basis that rescuing people was encouraging more people on to the seas. The decision to suspend Mare Nostrum exacerbated the problem and cost many, many lives, and the folly that he is stating will do the same.

Gareth Johnson: I have to disagree with the hon. Gentleman. There will not be a long-term solution to this problem until we sort out the problems that Syria faces within Syria. If we ensure that there is a safe place to live there, the necessity to make the dangerous journey will go away. That is the positive way forward.

Mrs Madeleine Moon (Bridgend) (Lab): I understand the argument that the hon. Gentleman is making. My problem is that I cannot see how we can give people a sense of hope and a sense that remaining in Syria is their future, when what we are offering to do is either bomb Assad or bomb Daesh. Bombing either side would only strengthen the other, and in the middle there is nothing that can fill the vacuum and provide people with a sense of hope that they can have a safe future in their own land.

Gareth Johnson: I argue that we can give some hope to the people of Syria by investment through the overseas aid budget and by ensuring that it continues. I am very proud of the 0.7% commitment, on which there was almost an all-party consensus. Only one major political party in this country disagreed with that, and its representative is not here in the Chamber—I refer to the UK Independence party. That party was wrong to take that approach, and this whole crisis has illustrated why it is right for this country to provide 0.7% of its GDP to help overseas countries.

Mrs Moon: That international development money is going into the camps in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey—it is not keeping people in Syria. It is impossible to put international aid into Syria, because there is no one to give aid to there.

Gareth Johnson: I would argue that that money has been spent on education in Syria, on running water in Syria and on improving the quality of life of people living in that region. We have seen time and time again that with the overseas budget we are able to ensure a greater degree of stability. What I have found from refugees is that ultimately they want to go back home. The only way we can give them the hope that the hon. Lady mentioned is by ensuring that there is a chance that one day they can get back home. They will not have that hope unless we have a stable country for them to return to, and we will not get that stability without the investment we are giving.

Angus Robertson: The civil war that has been visited on the people in Syria has, apparently, knocked that country back 40 years, as cities have literally been flattened and entire populations have left. I know that

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this is not necessarily within the scope of this debate, but do we not need to begin thinking not only about the scale of the refugee crisis—the humanitarian crisis that we need to address—but in Marshall plan terms, to do for Syria what we failed to do in Libya, where we spent 13 times more on bombing it than we did on winning the peace, and indeed we failed to do in Iraq and Afghanistan?

Gareth Johnson: I am glad that the hon. Gentleman mentioned the example of Iraq, because one lesson that came out of the Iraq war is that there was no plan for what would happen afterwards. He was right about that, and it shows why the investment in those countries is essential. He also rightly said that Syria is going to take years to heal itself after the evil of ISIL and President Assad, which is why it is crucial that we keep investing in the area. The Secretary of State made the point that this is the greatest investment of humanitarian aid that this country has ever made, and it is right that we recognise the importance that this Government have placed on ensuring that that investment is in place and that people are receiving it, because that is the only way, in the long term, that we will resolve this situation.

Simon Hoare: Does my hon. Friend share my concern, which I believe is held by many others, that if we take the argument of those who are supporting this afternoon’s motion, we are, in effect, giving carte blanche to Assad and to leaders of other countries to cause widespread disruption and destruction within their own countries because others will just take in the people they do not want? Keeping those Syrians close to Syria in well-run humanitarian camps means that they are a constant reminder to the international community and to Assad as to why Assad and ISIS must be defeated, so that we can then start building peace.

Gareth Johnson: I think we are encouraging people by encouraging the people smugglers and human traffickers to allow people to come over to the Mediterranean and be exploited in that way.

The world response to this problem emanated from the picture that we saw. It is probably unprecedented for a picture to change the way the world sees a particular problem. That painful picture of the young boy is testament to the fact that his family, like many others, believed that the only option open to them was to take that ill-fated journey. The message we have to send out from here and from around the world is that it simply does not need to be like that. We do not need to place obligations on refugees to take a hugely dangerous journey, forcing them to pay people traffickers.

Mr Angus Brendan MacNeil (Na h-Eileanan an Iar) (SNP): As the hon. Gentleman may know, one reason why refugees have to take this dangerous overland journey is a European aviation directive which prevents them from flying at a quarter of the cost. The directive means that the criminal gangs will grow, and these people have to cross overseas and are risking their lives. Is there an argument for suspending that directive, with the aim of saving life and ensuring that these people can get to a sanctuary, with the hope of returning to Syria some day? They have to live in order to do that.

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Gareth Johnson: The hon. Gentleman makes an interesting point, but my argument is still that the solution to this problem, if there is one, lies in Syria—it does not lie in mainland Europe.

The people who are in the worst situation are those in the camps in Syria. Those in Europe are certainly in need, but they are away from the evils of ISIL and President Assad. I come back to my central point: we have to tackle this issue from its source. I voted for military action in Syria and I would be persuaded to do so again. We have to take direct action against the fascism of ISIL, which, if left unchecked, will continue not only to destabilise the middle east but to act as a launch pad for attacks on the UK.

Let us be clear where the responsibility for this crisis lies. It lies with the actions of ISIL and President Assad, as they have created this exodus of people from Syria. They are currently the greatest threats to the security of this country, so it is right for us to take defensive, direct action against those who mean us harm. Sadly, this is how modern warfare has evolved, and we cannot just ignore people who plan to do us serious harm. We have to tackle the root causes of this problem. There will be occasions when a military approach is right, but it is also right that we do what we can to stabilise Syria and the wider region.

In conclusion, I come back to the speech made by the hon. Member for Moray at the beginning; I think this House has come together in its desire to see compassion for the people of Syria and of the wider region. The difference of opinion is on how we actually achieve that. It is on how we achieve a solution in the short, medium and long terms for the people of Syria and how we stabilise the whole region. It is essential that we ensure that the people of Syria have their future protected and we do not see the sorts of pictures that we have seen, and that we do all we can for the people who live in that region.

2.27 pm

Keith Vaz (Leicester East) (Lab): It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Dartford (Gareth Johnson), who began and ended his speech with a call for unity, reminding Members that we have heard some powerful speeches about this desperate situation and that even though we, sitting in this Chamber today, cannot solve this problem, it is critical that we discuss it as often as we can.

I congratulate the hon. Member for Moray (Angus Robertson) on leading this debate and congratulate the Scottish National party on reminding the House over the past few months of the very slow progress that has been made on the Syrian resettlement programme. I offer a mea culpa from me and the Home Affairs Committee, because we have not monitored as we should have done, but we will do so in future, as in order to make progress on resettlement we need to know that the process is actually working. I also commend my hon. Friend the Member for Wirral South (Alison McGovern), because many months ago she initiated an Adjournment debate about the Mediterranean crisis.

Two years ago, the Select Committee visited the border between Turkey and Greece, where we saw for ourselves that 100,000 people were crossing the border every year. The real organisation and institution that

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has failed the refugees is not this House or this Government, but the European Union, and I say that as one of its great supporters. The failure of the EU to put together a strategy over the past few years to deal with an inevitable crisis is a very serious indictment of that organisation. Although we have had many speeches from Mr Juncker and others in the last few weeks, if they had acted sooner we would all have been better prepared. Greece and Italy have been asking for support for many years. Greece has been saying that it needs additional financial support. Those refugees who cross from Turkey to Faliraki in Greece were allowed to stay there for only six months. They then travelled to Athens and they headed to northern Europe. Some 92% of those who cross into Italy come from the failed state of Libya, and the Italians have been asking for support over the last year but it has never been forthcoming. Now it is a crisis for the whole of the EU.

It is right that we should congratulate the Prime Minister and the Government on announcing that we will take 20,000 refugees. I am not convinced that the timescale is appropriate to the crisis, and that is why yesterday the Home Affairs Committee—the hon. Member for Louth and Horncastle (Victoria Atkins) was also present—pressed the Minister for Immigration for a target for each year. He was unable to give us a target, and I think that is wrong. We need to make sure that we hold the Government to account, not because we do not trust them to deliver on the 20,000 in five years, but because Ministers’ officials will understand the seriousness of the situation only if we have constant scrutiny and a desire to make things work. If we can have a net migration target, I do not see why we cannot have a target for the number of refugees to enter this year. That can be done and is deliverable, and if the Minister puts his mind to it at his weekly meetings with his directors general he can make sure that the target is implemented. What better way to convince the House of the sincerity of the Government’s pledge—the Prime Minister has been very sincere—than to come back before the House at the end of this year and give us a figure that we can all be very proud of? It would be easy to do that, and I hope that the Government will do so.

The second issue I am concerned about is the fact that the resettlement of the Syrian refugees will be led by Cabinet Ministers who are already very busy. I welcome the committee that has been set up under the joint chairmanship of the Home Secretary and the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, but what we need is a proper resettlement board. We saw that for ourselves in Leicester when Idi Amin expelled the Ugandan Asians. Without the structure of a resettlement board—independent of Whitehall but of course drawing its authority from Parliament and the Government and necessarily getting resources from the Government—to deal with the people who come here, we will have many problems in dealing with the resettlement of Syrian refugees.

Catherine West (Hornsey and Wood Green) (Lab): On my right hon. Friend’s point about organisation, as a former council leader I know that council leaders have so much on their minds at the moment and that dumping this in their laps would be completely the wrong thing to do. We also know about the important interface with

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the NHS, especially with counselling services. Demand for those services is huge at the moment, and I am particularly worried about the influx of non-English speakers—in the Leicester situation, many of the arrivals spoke English. I am also worried about specialist counselling services for people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Keith Vaz: We all share those worries, and that is why it is important that a proper structure is created.

My final point is about north Africa and how we deal with it. I have just come back from Tunisia, where I visited the hotel at which 38 British citizens were sadly murdered. I had meetings with Tunisian Ministers about how they were dealing with the migration crisis. They were doing well. They were showing great humanitarian support and deploying their navy to ensure that the people traffickers in their waters were dealt with, and economic migrants were returned to their countries humanely. We should compare that with Tunisia’s neighbour, Libya, where there is no control and the criminal gangs are operating.

I know that the Minister for Immigration is focused on what is happening in Europol, and we need to give it more resources. The Secretary of State for International Development talked about the taskforce that has been set up, but it has not been set up yet—it will be set up by November. It will be based in Sicily and will involve the National Crime Agency and other organisations. Europol is the only organisation that can deal with all the countries of the European Union and bring to the table expertise in dealing with criminal gangs, but it has not been given any additional resources for that task. I hope that the Minister for Immigration or the Home Secretary will make the point at the meeting next week about the importance of supporting that organisation. Unfortunately, Frontex has been a bit of a failure in dealing with those issues—we cannot of course be in Frontex formally because we are not in Schengen—and has not alerted others to the problems caused by the migration crisis.

We need to make sure that something is done to deal with the criminal gangs. The Prime Minister and others are keen not to send messages to the people traffickers by accepting people who have already arrived in the European Union, and I understand that. I understand why recruitment has to be direct from the camps, but there will be exceptional cases, such as Syrian refugees who have made it all the way to Calais—as the House knows, the mayor of Calais appeared before my Committee yesterday. To expect them to go all the way back to the camps in order to come to the United Kingdom would be unfair. I accept the general principle—once we announce we will take people from everywhere, the traffickers will take €10,000 from people to get them across the Mediterranean—but we need to be able to make exceptions for exceptional cases. We need to address that lack of flexibility.

Stuart C. McDonald: Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that that applies in particular to those at Calais who have family and friends in the United Kingdom? As we both know, the mayor of Calais confirmed yesterday that in her experience significant numbers of those in Calais were in that situation.

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Keith Vaz: I agree absolutely. People have those links and they choose to make the journey all the way to Calais because they want to come to the United Kingdom. We should not be in a competition over which country welcomes refugees better than others. As a migrant who came from war-torn Yemen with my two sisters, I think this is the best country in the world. The support and encouragement that Leicester, which is now a mirror of the world, gives to those who come as migrants is second to none, so we do not need to take any lessons from anybody about the way in which migrants are treated, but we need to be cautious about setting our face against sensible measures just because they do not fit a particular norm.

Mr MacNeil: The right hon. Gentleman perhaps embodies my point. There is often concern when we think of refugees and migrants arriving, but a short while later they become indispensable within the community and we could not imagine the place we live in without them. He typifies that point.

Keith Vaz: The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right—[Laughter.] We take compliments when they are given. The community has gone around the whole country, whether in Putney, Leeds or the constituency that I cannot pronounce—I will say Banff and Buchan instead —as I have seen from the entries for the Tiffin cup this year, and has contributed so much.

We have a leadership role to play on this issue. The Prime Minister has played an important role. He cares about the migrant community in this country, as I have observed over the last five years—I have attended many functions of the ethnic minority communities with him in that time—but this issue will be a defining moment. Making the pledge to take 20,000 is not the same as receiving 20,000. That is why I go back to what I said at the beginning of my speech. Hard though it is for Ministers to tell officials, we need targets and we need a substantial number coming in by the end of this year, not just for our reputation, but for our conscience and for the wishes of the British people.

2.39 pm

Victoria Atkins (Louth and Horncastle) (Con): I am pleased to follow the Chairman of the Home Affairs Committee, the right hon. Member for Leicester East (Keith Vaz), with whom I had the pleasure of attending an oral evidence session yesterday. I welcome the Prime Minister’s statement on welcoming 20,000 more refugees directly from camps in Syria and giving a further £100 million in aid to bring our financial assistance in the region to more than £1 billion.

The hon. Member for Moray (Angus Robertson), who is not in his seat, urged us to look at the text of the motion. I have done exactly that, and I must confess that I am disappointed by its title “Humanitarian crisis in the Mediterranean and Europe”. I believe that this is a worldwide humanitarian crisis that demands a worldwide humanitarian response.

Other hon. Members will no doubt focus on whether countries outside Europe are doing what they can to help people in need in Syria, but the fact is that the United Kingdom is leading the world in this. We have already invested £900 million in refugee camps, which is

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the second highest figure in the world and higher than that of any other European country. Frankly, that figure is unimaginable. What does it mean? It means 400 million relief packages, clean sanitation for nearly 7 million people and food rations for 18 million people. It is helping many more people in the region than any resettlement programme can hope to help in Europe. Moreover, that real, practical help in the region has been happening since February 2012.

I am pleased that the further £100 million will mean that more children and families are helped in the immediate vicinity of their home country. It is a genuinely compassionate response to help people near their homes. We must have an eye to the future. As I pointed out on Monday, when the Prime Minister made his statement, Syria will need its brightest and its best to help rebuild its future. By helping people near their homes, we are maximising the chances of that happening.

As a new Member, I am very conscious of the collaborative approach in the Chamber today, so I hope that what I am about to say is taken in the sense in which I mean it—as a genuine inquiry. The hon. Member for Moray and the right hon. Member for Leeds Central (Hilary Benn) have focused on the number of refugees we are accepting, but we are taking the different approach of focusing on need, rather than numbers. The sobering reality is that there is no magic number. Syria has 11 million displaced people. The United Kingdom cannot possibly absorb all the people in Syria who need help; frankly, neither can the continent of Europe. That is before we begin to look at other parts of the world that are suffering from conflict.

Yesterday, under the eminent chairmanship of the right hon. Member for Leicester East, the Home Affairs Committee discussed the issue of Calais with the mayor of Calais. She told us that 3,500 people in Calais are currently seeking refuge, coming not just from Syria, but from all sorts of troubled parts of the world, including Eritrea, Sudan and Yemen. To put that into perspective, the population of Eritrea is 5 million and the population of Sudan is 40 million. We cannot possibly hope to give a home to every person in places of great difficulty and trouble, no matter how much we wish we could.

Alison McGovern (Wirral South) (Lab): I offer this response in the spirit in which the hon. Lady is speaking. It is a mathematical truth that one is more than none and that each additional life that we can make better is an improvement on what we have been doing. The problem is that the Government have been too slow and helped too few.

Victoria Atkins: I will come on to the hon. Lady’s point in terms of what can be managed locally, but if I may, I will continue to talk about the text of the motion, which I hope will develop my argument and counter her point.

The text refers to refugees in Europe being absorbed as part of the humanitarian response. Given what the mayor of Calais said yesterday, how do we choose who to take out of the 3,500 people currently in Calais? How do we say to someone, “No, we’re not going to resettle you or give you a home because you are from Eritrea rather than from Syria”?

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We must also take into account the very practical problems on the ground in Calais, such as the deliberate destruction of paperwork. When people are trafficked, the criminal gangs tell them, “Destroy your paperwork—then they can’t tell where you come from and send you back.” Although I understand the call to accept refugees who are already in Europe, how on earth can that be accomplished realistically, given such practicalities? Is not the much better approach to take people who we know are Syrian refugees in refugee camps in that area? They are in desperate need, because they are the most vulnerable and are often unable to make the journeys that some people in Europe have made.

David Rutley (Macclesfield) (Con): My hon. Friend is making a very important and impassioned speech. She has made the important point that this is not just about Europe, but is wider than that. Does she share my pleasure that the Prime Minister said in his remarks on Monday that, as well as Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan, he would encourage other Arab nations, such as Saudi Arabia, to take on further responsibilities to ensure that not only countries in Europe but those in the region take greater responsibility for this very important task?

Victoria Atkins: Indeed. As I have said, this is a worldwide humanitarian crisis and it demands a worldwide response. We would hope that other nations in the middle east, who are closer than we are to Syria, could begin to play their part.

We must not ignore the role that criminal gangs play in this incredibly important and emotive issue. They are profiting from this situation. In my previous life, I prosecuted serious organised crime. A couple of years ago, I worked on a case in which we prosecuted the biggest gang trafficking people from Iraq. At that time, although it may since have changed, the going rate for each person trying to get from Iraq to the UK was £15,000. Let us not do anything to help these criminals, but make it as difficult as possible for them to operate and to ply their trade. That is why I believe it is so important to focus on refugee camps, rather than on people who are already in Europe. By focusing on the camps, we can help to prevent people from making such treacherous journeys across from Syria to European soil.

What should our approach be in the UK? We must ensure that every offer of help from our local councils and charities is part of a clear-headed and realistic approach to accommodating such people and giving them the care that they need not just now, but in the years ahead. We must listen to our local areas to ensure that they are asked to help only in ways that they can manage. Frankly, some areas will be able to help more than others, because of the availability of housing stock and so on.

I am very pleased to have had many conversations with the leader of my council, East Lindsey District Council, to see what we can realistically do in the years ahead. There have been lots of conversations in the House about how we can help locally. One idea I may propose is for my council to set up a fund to which local people can donate money so that it can be used to help Syrian refugees. I would be interested to hear the ideas of other hon. Members.

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Any help given locally must be manageable, not just now but in the longer term. Sadly, this issue is not going to go away. The issue of humanitarian and refugee needs will remain with us for as long as there is conflict in the world. A measured, reasoned and principled approach is therefore vital. That is why I am so pleased by the measures announced by the Prime Minister this week and the action we have taken in the past two years.

2.50 pm

Anne McLaughlin (Glasgow North East) (SNP): I see Conservative Members looking irritated, confused even, by the criticism from Opposition Members. I understand that. We see things a little differently. They believe they are being philanthropic, charitable even, and we believe they are simply fulfilling a moral obligation. They come from a political ideology that says individuals should be encouraged to keep as much as possible of the material goods they gather. We believe we should share those material goods when we have them with those who do not. It is shades of grey, of course. Many of us on these Benches probably do not share as much as we say we want to; and of course Government Members do believe in some wealth distribution, otherwise we would have no welfare state—such as it is—no NHS and no public schooling.

The fundamental difference, however, is that Conservative Members see a generous Government who were the first to meet the UN target on overseas aid and who on Monday offered refuge to an additional 20,000 people. Credit where credit is due, as others as have said. The former is an achievement of which they should be proud, with the caveat mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow North (Patrick Grady), and the latter means that we will indeed welcome 20,000 men, women and children who, I expect, will be forever glad of that decision. It is much better than where we were a few days ago.

The trouble for those of us who offer criticism is partly the number of refugees. After all, Germany can take 800,000, which is 40 times what we are prepared to take. Germany is not 40 times our size, and, to my knowledge, it is not 40 times richer. It is more about attitude. Had it not been for the public outcry and the political pressure, the clear indication was that this Government had no intention of taking anywhere near that number.

Catherine West: I am not sure if the hon. Lady is aware that there will be a national day of action in London this Saturday. I am sure many colleagues will not necessarily be in London, but it will add voice. It is being organised by a constituent of mine, Ros Ereira. I hope that others will be able to join in, or at least spread the word by tweets and so on, so we can do a bit more awareness raising on the importance of this crucial issue.

Anne McLaughlin: I think I have tweeted about that. There is also one in Glasgow and one in Edinburgh. I think they are being called the same name as part of a bigger thing.

The point I was making is that the annoyance on the Opposition Benches comes from the Government appearing not to be doing this for the right reasons, but just to get the politicians and the public off their back.

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Dr Daniel Poulter (Central Suffolk and North Ipswich) (Con): Will the hon. Lady not acknowledge that the UK has been one of the largest donors on the ground in many of the countries where there are refugees? That is thanks to the actions of this Government.

Anne McLaughlin: That is in the wording of the motion. Of course I accept that, otherwise I would not be speaking in support of the motion. I think I have made it clear that this is not just criticism for the sake of it. I have given credit where I think it is due.

Yesterday, during the debate on refugees, some Conservative Members were constantly barracking Labour Members with the words “How many? How many?” For those Members, it seemed to be simply about scoring points. I understand why Labour Members did not want to put a figure on it, because surely it depends on need, as the hon. Member for Louth and Horncastle (Victoria Atkins) pointed out—although I think we are taking a slightly different tack on that one. That is not me saying no limits on numbers; I am saying let us work out a minimum, and work with other countries—again, something this Government seem loth to do—and then let us respond to the need.

It is not just in the mismatch between words and action that this Government’s rhetoric has been a disgrace. The Government and the Prime Minister have repeatedly used dehumanising rhetoric to discuss the desperate plight of these refugees. I am not going to repeat that dehumanising rhetoric.

I would like to turn to the incredible response from the people of the United Kingdom, including organisations such as Scotland Supporting Refugees, which made clear its desire for its Government to respond. I am, of course, delighted that many people new to the debate have become among the most passionate advocates for asylum seekers. The image of a three-year-old child, his body lying motionless washed up on a beach in Turkey, has awakened something in the public consciousness. I have heard those people be accused of jumping on a bandwagon—not from anyone here, it has to be said. I would not criticise people who previously took no interest. Caring is hard work. It takes up a lot of emotional energy. There are so many atrocities and there is so much pain that I do not blame people who previously chose to believe the rhetoric that suggested that many seeking refuge were simply “at it”. Sometimes it is easier to believe that than to face up to the fact that this can be a terrible, terrible world with many wicked and powerful people in it. Once you face up to it and open your eyes, however, there is no going back. You either have to harden your heart or you have to do something. And thousands of people have chosen to take action. They are now very aware of the reasons why so many people take their lives in their hands in search of a safe haven.

I appeal to all of those caught up in the wave of support for the refugees currently arriving in Europe and currently waiting in Syria for sanctuary to spare a thought for the many already living among us in the UK. I know a woman, a Kurdish woman, who lives in Glasgow. She is a lovely quiet woman. She does not have much English, but she is very friendly. She smiles a lot and nods to everyone she passes in the street. She is a quiet, unassuming woman who is content to shop every day for bits and pieces, feed her children and smile at her neighbours. Three years ago, I visited Kurdistan.

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I found myself in what had been Saddam Hussein’s headquarters where many people had been held, tortured and sometimes murdered. I discovered that this lovely unassuming Glasgow woman, who appeared not to have a care in the world, had spent years in the very room in which I was standing being brutally tortured for refusing to give up her beloved husband to Saddam Hussein. The torture rooms now form part of a museum. The curators took a decision not to remove the blood stains. Some of that blood will have been hers. She is no exception. She is here as a refugee, but she is not an exception.

I had to choose, from the many people I know, whose story to highlight today. The right hon. Member for Leeds Central (Hilary Benn) talked of the horrific journeys that people go through to get sanctuary. I appeal to hon. Members and to the wider public to remember that it is not possible to see inside someone’s head. It is not possible to see the memories that they will live with forever. There is no way of knowing the terror your neighbour, colleague, school friend or even your postman has experienced. So please, keep aside a little kindness and friendship for those refugees not being featured on Facebook, who do not talk of what they have been through to get here but who are already part of our communities and trying do their best to live decent lives here in the United Kingdom.

Sir Oliver Heald (North East Hertfordshire) (Con): Does the hon. Lady agree that the Prime Minister is right to also concentrate on the 11 million who have been displaced in the region, the quality of those refugee camps that Britain is paying for and to make sure that we are not saying, “Make the journey to Europe.” What we are saying is, “If possible, stay in the region, in these camps.” Is it not also right to take firm enforcement action against the people smugglers? They are the criminals responsible for the death of young Alan Kurdi. He was killed because they cast him adrift in a dinghy in the Mediterranean.

Anne McLaughlin: I think the hon. and learned Member knows very well that I did not say anything that would disagree with either of those premises.

Alison McGovern: I want to support what the hon. Lady is saying. She did not say anything to disagree with that. Rather, she did something profoundly important, which is to share the lived experience of those we are here to represent. That is why we learn the lessons of this outpouring of support for the refugees, and we shape our country according to those moral values.

Anne McLaughlin: I thank the hon. Lady for her intervention.

My city of Glasgow is built on the back of those fleeing crisis: cleared highlanders whose houses were burned down so they could never return; Irishmen and women looking for refuge after the famine; Jewish families from the Baltic fleeing pogroms under the Tsars; and more recent refugees who have come and established themselves in Glasgow, many in my constituency.

Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP): I thank the hon. Lady for making such a passionate speech. I have not heard anyone mention—perhaps I just missed it—those

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countries that have not accepted any refugees, such as Saudi Arabia, Yemen and the United Arab Emirates. Do countries in the region not need to accept people and take some of the pressure off everyone else?

Anne McLaughlin: I do not disagree. I think my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow South (Stewart McDonald) made that point yesterday. Of course I am not saying the United Kingdom is the worst country in the world at taking asylum seekers and refugees. There are countries that are not doing anything and should be doing something.

It is always worth repeating—and I do it now—that Glasgow welcomes refugees and Scotland welcomes refugees. I am probably not going to win many fans today by admitting that for once I was not too upset to see my beloved Scotland football team being beaten on Monday evening. [Hon. Members: “What?”] If that is the response, I think my hon. Friends and the many Scots on the other Benches might feel I have gone a step too far when I admit that part of me even cheered on the team that beat us—I am sorry. In all seriousness, if we had to lose—and it seems that for a change we did—I cannot currently think of a better country to lose to than Germany. The way in which the German Federal Government and, more importantly, the ordinary people of Germany have opened their borders, their homes and their hearts to fellow human beings in desperate need has been nothing short of inspirational. And if my team wants to let them win at football by way of thanks, so be it.

The United Kingdom has the capacity to do so much more in this crisis. The people of the UK have made it clear that they want the Government to do more to save lives. I urge the Government to think about how they would like their response to this humanitarian disaster to be remembered in the history books and to act accordingly.

3.2 pm

Caroline Ansell (Eastbourne) (Con): I am afraid I am obliged to disagree with the hon. Member for Glasgow North East (Anne McLaughlin) on a variety of points, not least Scotland’s lack of success. It might be little known on the Opposition Benches that I have Scottish heritage, Walter Smith being part of that extended family. She does well to pay tribute to Germany’s contribution, but we must be incredibly careful, as previously said, not to enter into a bidding war. We must not compare, like for like, each country’s contribution. Germany is in a distinctly different position. It has a falling birth rate, whereas ours is rising significantly. It is the same with land mass. Across Europe, each country is differently placed to provide help in the current crisis.

Yesterday, we heard many excellent contributions, and today likewise. Yesterday, the shadow Home Secretary closed with a call to each of us to remember the Kindertransport and everything it meant. There are huge parallels with that moment in history—the tyranny, persecution and crisis—but there is a further parallel to draw that has significant resonance to the matter at hand: people being driven from their homes and communities and separated from their families. That is

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what we are seeing today. I will return later to those particularly important themes of home and family in conjunction with what we must do.

We stepped up, back in the day. Opposition Members have been good enough to recognise the lead the Prime Minister has taken in the crisis and acknowledge that we should be proud of our contribution. What is our aid doing? It is reaching millions: we have provided 18 million food rations; 1.6 million people have access to clean water; and 2.4 million have access to medical consultation, relief packages and sanitation. These are hugely important interventions we are making. In addition, the Home Secretary did full justice to our work safeguarding and protecting the most vulnerable victims, notably women and girls.

It was asked at the start whether we were doing everything we could, and that means more than humanitarian aid. This can be no better put than in the words of Oxfam’s chief executive:

“Providing life-saving support to the millions of people affected by this devastating conflict is essential but it is not enough.”

Resettling refugees from Syria will not solve the crisis. They and we must dig in for a long-term, sustainable political solution. It will be head and heart. In that spirit, we must address the root causes of the crisis, including Assad’s tyranny of the Syrian people. We must also degrade and defeat ISIS and not pump-prime the trafficking gangs peddling human misery. Before Syria loses too many more of its sons and daughters, we must provide lasting help—to return to the Kindertransport —and that means homeland. We must champion the millions of people left behind, as well as providing urgent care and support for those making the journey. It is right that we focus on that pressing and desperate need.

The hon. Member for Glasgow North East talked of irritation on the Government Benches. I hear compassion and a difference of opinion about how best to meet the challenge, but surely we can recapture the unity with which we started this debate, because this is so much bigger than all of us—bigger than this Parliament, bigger than this country. I urge a return to that unity. I was pleased that the shadow Home Secretary talked, alongside humanitarian aid, about the need for military support to re-establish peace and stability. We will need unity around that also. Yesterday in the House, we heard of two known extremists who presented a real and present danger to people in our country, and there was question and challenge—quite properly—about that situation. In addition to compassion for those in need, we need courage in relation to the very many more who have a greater need than that.

Carol Monaghan (Glasgow North West) (SNP): The hon. Lady says we have to tackle the problems, but as Jean-Claude Juncker said yesterday, what is the point in fighting Daesh if we are not willing to accept those fleeing Daesh?

Caroline Ansell: And so we are. We have already accepted 5,000 under normal asylum-seeking processes, and we are to accept a further 20,000 more—not the 10,000 proposed by Oxfam, but 20,000 more. That is a considerable contribution, alongside our considerable humanitarian aid. With that, I end my speech.

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3.10 pm

Martin John Docherty (West Dunbartonshire) (SNP): I am grateful for the opportunity to participate in what I believe is one of the most important debates that has taken place here for some years. I am extremely grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Moray (Angus Robertson) for bringing it to the Floor of the House. Before I proceed, I would also like to commend the comments of the right hon. Member for Leeds Central (Hilary Benn), with which many on the SNP Benches will of course agree.

We are all aware of the raft of statistics that underpin this debate. At the moment, while many will have welcomed the Prime Minister’s statement yesterday, what we are offering is still technically below the average among European Union members for asylum applications per head of population. As we all know, until recently, only 216 Syrian nationals were resettled in the United Kingdom through the Syrian vulnerable persons relocation scheme. If Members wish to question that, I would direct them in the first instance to the Library, where they will find the document published on 7 December that clearly stipulates it.

I appreciate that we are being conciliatory in this debate, but it is sometimes hard, given my nature, to do that. While the British Government seem like bystanders in this calamity, as we speak, swathes of humanity from the foot of Mount Ararat itself to the Berlin Hauptbahnhof are reaching out across the European continent seeking shelter and refuge—yet not here, not now, although perhaps by the end of what will be called, to our eternal shame, “the refugee Parliament”. I am told that I can take six in my constituency, and they are more than welcome—the more, the merrier.

I am sure that Members, or at least those of us old enough to remember—my hon. Friend the Member for Moray spoke about this earlier—have a feeling of impending déjà vu, as we have been here before. Who here could easily replace boats of Syrians and Libyans with those fleeing the collapse of the former Indo-China and the disaster of communism as it lapped across Cambodia, Laos and, of course, Vietnam, bringing Europe and the world face-to-face with the boat people?

As it did then, this Parliament—and, I am afraid, the Government—limits the ambition of the communities across all of these islands for those who even now seek to reach out beyond the limitations of this place and its perverse choices. Communities such as my own in West Dunbartonshire are even now adopting a cross-party approach through local community-led co-ordination and leadership, seeking to assist and give refuge, when and if the opportunity is afforded us, to those in peril who are fleeing aggression and, yes, even economic catastrophe. Speaking as the vice-chairman of the all-party group on civil society and volunteering, I am sure Members will agree and recognise the voluntary action that my community, along with so many others, are undertaking at this grave moment in our history, as mentioned by the hon. Member for North Down (Lady Hermon).

Catherine West (Hornsey and Wood Green) (Lab): In the hon. Gentleman’s role as the champion for the voluntary sector, is he aware of any other places, apart from own Hornsey and Wood Green constituency, that are making similar efforts? My constituency is going to

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acquire and provide aid to refugees the weekend after next. There is also a bookshop collecting goods, as well as a school where the children are spending their own pocket money to buy blankets, books and so on. Is he aware of any other constituency where there is so much of an effort to help refugees in this crisis?

Martin John Docherty: I am grateful for that intervention, but I am sure that we are all aware of those types of organisations and individuals committing their time through volunteering to help those in need. I have also heard about food banks in Scotland deciding to donate food parcels to those in Calais.

I am sure that some in this Chamber could do without a history lesson, but if this House were ever in need of a history lesson, it would be now. It is a lesson in mass migration, brought about, from my perspective, by failed and inept historical foreign policy. Important choices made go as far back as the peace of Versailles, which brought about the very construction of Syria and so many other nations of the middle east. The decision was taken in 1953 to overthrow a democratically elected Government and to replace it with a truly despotic monarchy in Iran. Then there is the holding up of the regime of Assad and, of course, the invasion of Iraq. This is a hard lesson, one fraught with the disaster whose name we all know—radicalisation. It is a disaster at the expense of the poor and vulnerable—women, children, and the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community. I hope that the Minister will recommend that the Secretary of State engages in broad discussions with charitable and voluntary groups, including LGBT community organisations across the United Kingdom, about how they can play their part in the debate, especially when some people are fleeing persecution that is based on their sexual and gender identity.

It will be a dreadful and historic failure, as recognised by many on the Opposition Benches, if our inaction is continued. I can speak for many of us on the SNP side as the children and grandchildren of the lowest of the low in this debate—economic migrants, just like so many now seeking refuge from Syria, north Africa and across the globe, as Members have mentioned.

SNP Members and those who elect us have long memories. We can smell the stench of poverty that underpins this crisis, and we at least will find some comfort that our Government in Edinburgh are seeking to accept 1,000 refugees—not as a cap or limit, but as a starting point in opening our doors to the world. We in Scotland, like so many across these islands, stand ready in the best traditions of Scotland to offer sanctuary to those desperately in need. We are, after all, “Jock Tamson’s bairns.” This is not the first time that this House has debated such a catastrophe and such appalling suffering. From the very distant past, those debates in this House should inform our debate today.

It is to those very debates that I turn to plead with the British Government on behalf of the destitute and the poor fleeing economic catastrophe and aggression. They are in your hands, and in your power. If you do not save them, they cannae save themselves. I solemnly call upon you to recollect that we predict that many will perish unless you come to their relief.

I am no Daniel O’Connell, yet his plea in 1847 in this very Chamber, prompted by the economic catastrophe that was the plight of the famine, rings as true today as

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it did then. Our response to him is “let them in”. My own constituency finds its heritage sullied and darkened by that great episode as it stretched across the entire isle of Ireland and across swathes of Scotland and the north of England.

This Government must act without delay. I tell the Minister that I am very much aware of the personal commitment and passion of the Secretary of State on this issue, which I hope he will take back to the Secretary of State, but we must opt into the EU relocation scheme and allow this United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland to play its part in the true understanding of a family of nations. The UK Government must critically fulfil their leadership in New York this month, as they sign the impending sustainable development goals. They are the rallying cry for this debate: “leave no one behind.”

3.20 pm

Nicola Blackwood (Oxford West and Abingdon) (Con): It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for West Dunbartonshire (Martin John Docherty). Let me gently mention to him that I speak as the daughter of a South African migrant nurse who left apartheid South Africa in the early 1970s and arrived here with £5 in her pocket.

The International Development Secretary is right to say that this is not a distant crisis, but one for which we bear a moral responsibility, and, moreover, one that we feel is closely connected to us. That is certainly how many people feel in my constituency, where there has been a surge of support and where offers of help have come from all sides. I agree with the motion’s call for clarification on straightforward practical fronts, because the decisions that we make in this place to take more refugees, and the offers of help that are pouring in, will need to be co-ordinated and delivered by our local authorities. They do that willingly and they do it generously, but what we are asking will be challenging, and we must be as clear as possible, as soon as possible, so that we can deliver effectively what we promise.

We have heard a great deal today about our tackling the problem at source, and about the drivers of the crisis. In 2013, two years into the Syrian crisis, I visited Lebanon and met refugees in makeshift camps in the Beka’a valley and in the Shatila camp in Beirut. Already 80,000 had died in the conflict, and already refugee numbers were reaching a fifth of the Jordanian population and a quarter of the Lebanese population. No one can question the generosity of our humanitarian response to date. As we have heard, we are the second biggest bilateral donor, and the biggest donor in the European Union. No one in the Chamber should take this lightly, for that money saves lives: it saves the lives of people who are in the greatest peril.

In Lebanon, I met schoolteachers, business owners, police officers and aid workers. Some were local, while others were experts who had been shipped in from hotspots elsewhere to troubleshoot. I was trying to get a sense of how a country copes with that kind of influx, but it is not those conversations that have stayed with me. In Shatila, I met women and girls who had fled

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from southern Syria. They told me that they had received warnings over the internet that their community was about to be attacked. All the women and children had left on foot that night. Four days later, their entire village was razed to the ground. They did not know what had happened to their husbands and brothers, some of whom were still in Syria fighting.

Menal, a beautiful 19-year-old, sat there silently. She was not crying, but tears were falling down her face. Eventually I asked her what was wrong, and she said that she felt in danger all the time, and that in the camp the Lebanese police had no jurisdiction. All that she wanted to do was go back home to Syria, but she now had no home to go to: it had been bombed out of existence. Her final words to me should haunt us in this Chamber, and should remind us of the despair that drives this crisis. She said, “I was going to go to university next year. What will I do now?”

Without exception, all the Syrians to whom I have spoken since the crisis want their country back. They want their lives back. The Syrians whom I met in Lebanon were anything but economic refugees looking for new lives in Europe; they wanted to stay as close to home as possible, ready to go back and rebuild their country as soon as it was safe. Since then, however, the fighting has dragged on, and the situation has deteriorated markedly.

As the International Development Secretary says, our refugee response models do not match the scale and the time frame of this crisis. Insecurity for women and girls in the camps means that we are seeing families face the terrible choice of having to marry off 11 and 12-year-old daughters to strangers just to keep them safe. In countries such as Jordan, which is trying to maintain a delicate political balance, refugees are not permitted for fear of destabilisation. Unsurprisingly, the majority of refugees in Jordan have chosen not to live in the camps, and many are trying to eke out a living illegally in the cities. As we have heard, access to primary education—let alone secondary education—can also be hard to come by.

Given that context, it is not surprising that some refugees are losing hope, putting themselves at extreme risk at the hands of people-smugglers, and coming to the European Union in search of safety and some kind of future. We must ensure that refugees who are already in the EU find sanctuary, but I, too, accept the core principle set out by the Prime Minister in his statement on Monday. As we seek to do everything we can, we must not act as recruiters for criminal gangs and people-smugglers who are preying on the most vulnerable people. However, I also accept the principle that was set out by the shadow Foreign Secretary, that our humanitarian response must be on the basis of greatest need. That is why I think the Prime Minister is right to say that we will take 20,000 refugees from UNHCR camps in the region.

There can be no doubt that those camps, where refugees face insecurity, lack of education and no job opportunities, are the point of greatest need. There can be no doubt they are entirely unsuitable for the most vulnerable refugees—victims of torture and chemical weapon attacks, and unaccompanied children. I also share the view of the right hon. Member for Leicester East (Keith Vaz) that the principle of greatest need may well extend to exceptional cases from the EU.

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Let me end by saying that if we are to have any hope of genuinely tackling the problem at source, our efforts to combat ISIL and disrupt people-smugglers will have to be matched by the delivery of a new model of humanitarian response that is fit for a crisis on this scale and with this time frame. We need camps that are safe for women and girls, we need primary and secondary education to be available to refugees in the region so that girls like Menal do not despair, and we need innovative solutions that offer job opportunities to refugees.

I completely understand why countries such as Jordan are trying to preserve a delicate political balance, and do not want refugees to enter their labour market, but de-skilling an entire generation of Syrians—the very Syrians whom we want to return and rebuild their fragile post-conflict countries—is in no one’s interests. I encourage the Minister to consider the proposal by Paul Collier, a pre-eminent development economist, for job havens. That is a solution which the EU could offer now, and which would restore hope to many.

This country has a proud history of giving sanctuary to those who are fleeing conflict, and of protecting the persecuted. In the midst of one of the worst forced migration crises in our history, it is our job to find new and better ways to respond. We must not be the generation that fails this test of humanity.

3.27 pm

Andy Slaughter (Hammersmith) (Lab): The Government are correct to emphasise what they are getting right: the 0.7% of gross national income spent on development, the £1 billion allocated to relief around Syria, and, indeed, the 20,000 refugees who will now be welcomed to Britain—although I believe that, without the public pressure, that would not have happened. However, as the motion says, it is too little, and it is misconceived to look at a five-year period when the immediate crisis is now and we do not know what the crisis will be in five years’ time.

I hope that Members will understand if I choose to concentrate on what the Government are not getting right at the moment. There is a rigidity in their approach, a desire to hold the line at the concessions that they have made so far. I do not think that that does any service either to the refugees or to our reputation internationally.

Three points particularly troubled me in the statements made in this debate and yesterday’s debate and the Prime Minister’s statement on Monday. The first—this goes to the heart of the motion—is the idea that we should opt out of the crisis in Europe and look only at the situation in the camps bordering Syria. Yesterday my hon. Friend the Member for Westminster North (Ms Buck) referred to her experience of helping out at a refugee station in Kos earlier this summer, and the conditions she described there are at least as bad as those in the camps in Lebanon or Jordan. Some 50,000 refugees arrived in Greece in one month, and we know that Greece simply cannot cope. We are dodging our responsibility as a European nation and EU member. It is not fair to draw a line at the channel, and to be one of only three of the 27 EU countries not prepared to act collectively. I fear that this is more to do with the internal politics of the Conservative party or indeed European referendum politics. It is frankly embarrassing to hear refugees speaking in English in European countries

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about the German Chancellor and the people of Germany as their salvation when for centuries our country has been the leading light for Europe in providing refuge to those who are dispossessed.

Secondly, while understanding the priority given to Syria where the refugee crisis is worse than anywhere else, the Government are wrong and illogical to limit the relief simply to those who are refugees in Syria. I refer specifically here to the situation in the north of Iraq. It cannot be lost on anyone who has listened to the Prime Minister or the Defence Secretary that the Government see little or no difference between the causes of the refugee crisis in Iraq and that in Syria, and in particular the role of Daesh in terrorising and persecuting anybody who does not adhere to its perverted fanaticism.

The Yazidi, Shi’a, Christian and many Sunni citizens of Mosul and the occupied areas have suffered terribly at the hands of Daesh and thousands have fled, principally to Kurdish-controlled regions. Despite the hospitality and military protection afforded by the Kurdish people, the plight of these refugees is desperate. Many countries including France—including even Australia—have recognised this; Britain has not.

In particular, the vulnerable persons relocation scheme has not been extended to Iraq. This has been a completely inadequate scheme so far—only 250-odd people have benefited from it—but I am hopeful in the light of the Prime Minister’s announcement that it will now function. It should, however, function for Iraqi refugees from Daesh as well, not least because there are a quarter of a million Syrian refugees in Iraq as well as in other surrounding countries. I hope the Prime Minister and the Minister responding today will deal with that point. The Prime Minister certainly did not do so when I asked him the question on Monday and he said that Iraq has a Government. That is perhaps literally true, but it is no comfort for those refugees, and I am afraid the Secretary of State has not answered the point either. Nor have I had a response to my letter to the Foreign Secretary on this subject of 7 August. It would be nice to receive one.

I declare an interest thus far in that the Iraqi Catholic community in the UK is based at Holy Trinity church in Brook Green in my constituency, and it is a settled, prosperous community who would wish to welcome their relatives who are currently suffering so greatly. However, I do not make a special case for Christian refugees any more than for Muslim or those of any other religion or of none; we have a duty to refugees in Iraq as much as to those in Syria. My constituents in Hammersmith—46% of whom were, at the time of the last census, born outside the UK—absolutely understand not only our moral obligation but the wealth of experience and indeed the economic power of refugees, and that refugees have in great part made this country what it is today. This is an act of generosity, but it is also an act of self-interest. I cannot see that that is inconsistent and that is why I find the Government’s actions surprising.

The third and potentially most troubling point is the Government’s conflation of military action and the refugee crisis, which we heard in the Prime Minister’s statement on Monday. I agree with the Prime Minister that we have to address the long-term causes of the refugee crisis, and that requires a stable Government in Syria which means not only Daesh but Assad have to go. The UK can assist in that process in many ways, but

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the lesson of recent history is that military action by western powers is unlikely to do so. If we have not understood that from Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, we certainly should have done. That is why I have grave concerns about what the Prime Minister said in the second part of his statement. We are very far from establishing the legality of the drone strike that was reported, either under article 51 or indeed under the common law of self-defence. The Prime Minister certainly mentioned necessity and proportionality in his statement, but he did not mention the imminence of the threat.

Issues about the chronology of that event have come to light since. A number of former Directors of Public Prosecutions, Attorney Generals, non-governmental organisations, such as Reprieve, and leading Members of both Houses have expressed concerns. As the Prime Minister conceded in answering questions on Monday, it is a significant change of policy, so the House deserves an explanation. If we are moving to a shoot-to-kill policy and towards the tactics adopted by the Israeli and US military, the House has the right to know. At the very least, we need an investigation, either by the Foreign Affairs Committee or, indeed, by the Intelligence and Security Committee, in so far as these matters need to be confidential; but we also need the Law Officers to come to the House to explain the legal principles, to explain what their role has been, to explain what their advice has been so far, to explain what the process for that decision making has been and to say what their role would be if any further action were contemplated.

The Government do not have a mandate for military action in Syria—quite the contrary. The House made its view abundantly clear two years ago. The Prime Minister said that he got it at that point. I suspect that the reverse is true and that, in fact, he has been looking to reverse that policy ever since.

Mrs Moon: Does my hon. Friend share my concern about mission creep in Syria? We have just had a drone strike, killing British citizens, but before that, we were told that British pilots were taking part in missions over Syria, again with no authority from this country, but on the basis that they were embedded with other forces, which has never happened before.

Andy Slaughter: My hon. Friend, who is an expert in these matters, anticipated that my next word was going to be “embedded”. I am afraid that we have seen the hand of both public opinion and the House being forced by actions taken—first, British forces being embedded and the substantial increase in drone activity generally. Perhaps 40% of drone activity in the region is now over Syria. Now, of course, the drone strike has been reported. This is a way to pre-empt a decision that, no doubt, the House will debate in the autumn. These actions will have a direct impact on the refugee situation.

My final point is on the illogicality—this seems to be lost particularly among Government Members—of now deciding to take military action against Daesh. The main beneficiary of that will be Assad. However horrific and disgusting the actions of Daesh have been, the fact remains that the majority of abductions, torture and murders of civilians and the destruction of Syria’s infrastructure are the responsibility of the Assad regime.

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In the past month, 1,600 barrel bombs were dropped by that regime. While we are attacking Daesh, we are making Assad stronger. Of course both need to be tackled. Of course a co-ordinated response is needed. That has been singularly lacking, and that is one of the roots of the refugee crisis. but I would regret seeing the Government rush to arms when they are so tardy in addressing their humanitarian duties.

3.37 pm

Lucy Frazer (South East Cambridgeshire) (Con): Our country has a proud history of accepting the vulnerable into our society. That has not only saved lives, but enriched our culture. My family certainly owes a debt of gratitude to this country, for giving it refuge when it faced persecution. In times like these, we must live up to our international and moral obligations, but we must remember three important things when considering the crisis that faces us. First, our responsibility is not only to provide a safe haven. The task that faces us is not simply to offer a land in which the refugees can live; it is to give these people the chance of a future, and that means so much more than simply giving them the right to live here.

Roger Mullin (Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath) (SNP): Will the hon. Lady give way on that point?

Lucy Frazer: Let me finish the point, because I am responding to the point made by the hon. Member for Moray (Angus Robertson) when he said that each life lost is important. Equally, each person’s quality of life is important. As the motion recognises, refugees have a moral and legal right to be treated properly, and that means integrating them into our communities as soon as they arrive, giving them homes, providing access to learning the language and access to study, to work and to medical facilities. Many voluntary organisations already do a fantastic job in holding the hands of the vulnerable in times of need. But when we take 20,000 refugees, including many children and women who have suffered violence and abuse, we must bring together local communities, charities, and local and central Government so that we provide advice, homes, interpretation facilities and the kind of care that we give to our own vulnerable families.

Roger Mullin: The hon. Lady is making a very fine speech. I particularly enjoyed her earlier comments about the need to think about the future and about the importance of education and the need to build up capacity so that people can return to help build that future. In the light of that, does she agree that the one thing the Government can do in addition to what they are promising to do is encourage our universities and colleges to open their doors to the young people so that they can learn the skills to enable them to go back? That commitment could easily be made in addition to the 20,000 target.

Lucy Frazer: First, it is important that we work with our local communities, which we are doing, and to use our foreign aid budget to do that. This is a very separate issue. I think what the hon. Gentleman is saying is that we should open our doors to people who are not refugees, because if we are giving people asylum or

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refuge, they will have access to our education facilities anyway; that is part of the process. Secondly, international co-operation is not only important, but essential. Yesterday, the shadow Home Secretary started her speech with a reference to the Kindertransport. But the challenges posed by Nazi Germany in the early 1940s were taken up not by one country, or even by Europe, but by the UN. Forty four countries signed a declaration in November 1943. An international effort on a significant scale is needed here. Britain leads the world in committing 0.7% of its budget to foreign aid.

Alison McGovern: The hon. Lady is making an excellent case for the Government to join the UN resettlement scheme, but they have refused to do so. Does she wonder why that was?

Lucy Frazer: The Government have already taken people in through a UN scheme and they are committed to take more. They have already taken refugees through asylum. Of course we need to work at European and international levels, but the UN and countries around the world need to do more. We must call on other countries to live up to the commitment of 0.7%.

Stewart McDonald (Glasgow South) (SNP): Will the hon. Lady give way?

Lucy Frazer: I will continue. We need to provide the funding that the UN bodies need to carry on their vital work on the ground. As the right hon. Member for Leeds Central (Hilary Benn) rightly recognised, people are leaving Syria simply because they do not have the basic provisions in their own country. The £1 billion that we have already provided in international aid is vital. We have provided 50% more than Germany and 14 times the contribution of France. We must also work with local partners to seek a solution to the political crisis in Libya and Syria.

Finally, although we will benefit greatly from the huge talent that the refugees offer, the longer this crisis goes on the more Syria will lose out from this incredible human potential. We must work in the UK and in the camps to provide people with the skills that they need to rebuild Syria. We cannot deprive Syria of its brightest and its best. That is not a long-term solution. I am proud to be British and to offer a home to the most vulnerable, but let us not underestimate the scale and complexity of the task ahead. I am confident that this is a challenge that Britain can live up to.

3.44 pm

Tim Farron (Westmorland and Lonsdale) (LD): I pay tribute both to the hon. Member for Moray (Angus Robertson), who is not in his place at the moment, for his speech and to the Scottish National party for its collegiate approach to this debate; it is massively to its credit. The language of this debate has been thoughtful and positive. We must acknowledge that over the past couple of months the language has not always been so conciliatory or so thoughtful. Only six weeks or two months ago, we heard people, including the Prime Minister, use phrases such as “migrants swarming through Europe”.

I took the opportunity at the beginning of August, during the recess, to go to the Jules Ferry camp in Calais and spend some time there. That does not make

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me an expert, but I discovered a number of things. First, I found that these “swarms of economic migrants” included far fewer people than the media presented. They were not economic migrants, not that there is anything disgraceful about that, but were by any sensible definition refugees from Syria, Eritrea, Sudan and Afghanistan—from places that meant they were fleeing war, tyranny and instability. It was clear to me that although the vast majority of the people were men there were far more women and children than appeared from what was being presented.

I took the chance to talk to about 20 or so refugees and quiz them about their desire to come to the UK. Their answer was that they wanted to come to the UK because it represents the good life—“Ah!” I hear from some on the Tory Benches, “They are coming here to sponge off us.” But no, when I drilled down about what the good life meant to those people I found that it meant stability, peace, an absence of conflict, civilisation and being able to bring their kids up and work their socks off without the fear of losing their home or their family. That is what Britain’s good life is and that is why we are an attractive place to be. Let us not decry that; let us be dead proud of the fact that we have that reputation.

Volunteers in the camp are painfully aware of where Britain stands, and of the fact that, when it comes to asylum applications, France takes more than twice the number we do every year and Germany five or six times the number. The thought that we are being targeted to be sponged off by economic migrants swarming through Europe is dishonest and not true. I came away from Calais with the overall impression that the Prime Minister, the Government and indeed others were reacting not to the reality—they have no excuse not to react to it as they have far better access to research than I do—but to the political story. That is shameful. When they react with dogs, tear gas and fences, that is a political reaction and not the way to solve the problem and make things better.

I said that language is important, but a picture is important too. A week ago, the decision by The Independent, in particular, to print the absolutely heartbreaking picture of the body of Alan Kurdi was one of the most powerful things any journalist could choose to do. There are times when we are critical of the media, but we should be dead proud that that newspaper and others chose to print the picture. It was edgy, it was appallingly hard to look at as a father—I find it hard even to imagine it now—but it changed the tone of the debate in this country. A week ago, there was no plan whatsoever from those on the Government Benches to make the kind of proposals that were made yesterday. They were made because they were led by British public opinion and I am proud of the British public and how they led that change in the debate.

We all have our own stories, but we should all be proud of the values shown in the response of the British people, whatever part of the United Kingdom we come from. In my patch, hundreds of people have offered accommodation, food, money and other things, and that is a reminder that this is not accidental, not a rare thing. It is true to our character as a nation and as a family of nations. It is 70 years since half of the children from Auschwitz arrived—where? It was on the banks of Windermere, believe it or not, in probably the least diverse constituency in the country. Between Windermere and Ambleside, on the banks of the lake,

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were 350 survivors from the camps at Auschwitz and elsewhere—mostly 13, 14 and 15-year-old lads, including the great Ben Helfgott, who went on to lift weights for Britain in the Olympics in the 1950s but came as a little lad from Auschwitz. The reception of the people in the south Lakeland area to those people was immense. It was true to their character then and the response to today’s refugee crisis is true to their character today. I am proud of them.

I also share a sense of admiration, and even a little envy, when I look at the German response and leadership of the response to the refugee crisis. For what it is worth, I am always up for Scotland, and that support is always repaid, I know, when Scots are so fervently up for England when we play games of various sorts.

Germany’s response to the refugee crisis has added to its standing in the world, it has made it more relevant in the world, and it will clearly be of economic value in the years to come. The Liberal Democrats welcome the plan set out by the Government yesterday to take up to 20,000 refugees, but we are bound to criticise many of the details, not least the fact that we are proposing to take up to 20,000 over five years, so over five years we will take, at best, as many people as the Germans will take in a weekend. We are also critical of the fact that no hope is offered for those in transit. Those are many of the people who are in most danger, under most threat, and for whom we should have most concern.

I am one of two people in the Chamber who would make the point that the commitment of 0.7% of GDP to international aid was achieved with the Liberal Democrats in government, with our unanimous support. Although the Secretary of State and others rightly claim credit for it too, I can point out that there was nobody on my Back Benches decrying the Government commitment to that 0.7%.

Tom Brake (Carshalton and Wallington) (LD): Does my hon. Friend agree that it is outrageous that the Conservative party claims that we tried to cut the international development budget, on the back of a report in the Daily Mail, which is hardly a supporter of the Liberal Democrats?

Tim Farron: My right hon. Friend is correct. It is a great shame. The story of the coalition on this issue is that all the Liberal Democrats and all the Conservatives who were in Government positions supported that target, but there were dozens and dozens of Conservative Back Benchers who, if they had had their way, would have taken that money away.

Mr Jim Cunningham (Coventry South) (Lab): The Liberals and the Government are taking credit for the 0.7%. We have all played a part—the Labour party played a part when in government. More importantly, does the hon. Gentleman agree that it is vital that refugees are resettled in such a way that they fit into the community and that ghettos are not created through lack of resources? Previous Governments have used urban aid budgets to do that.

Tim Farron: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for making that point. It was exactly the reason why I raised the issue of the DFID funding. It is right that

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funds should be given to local communities to allow for that resettlement. My key concern is that we are taking from the DFID budget, and therefore taking from that 0.7%, in order to fund this work. That money should come from other sources. We ought to remember that the 0.7% commitment to international aid is about conflict prevention, to make sure that the refugee crisis does not get worse in the years to come. It is short-sighted to raid the DFID budget in order to fund refugee settlement; the money should come from other sources.

I am bound to decry the fact that this Government refuse once again to co-operate with others in the European Union on a collective approach. That affects our standing in the EU and the world. We are seen as a country that turns its back on its neighbours, that is not a good team player and that is not able to roll up its sleeves collectively to try to make a difference. The Prime Minister will spend time over the coming months in the capitals of Europe trying to build the case for concessions so that he can make the case for a yes vote in an EU referendum. What chance has he now of getting concessions from people who believe he has been such a non-team player over this most critical issue? He has damaged Britain’s standing and he has potentially put at greater risk Britain’s membership of the European Union.

Lucy Frazer rose

Tim Farron: I will not give way; I want to make progress.

By limiting the number of refugees we will take to a maximum of 20,000 over five years, the Prime Minister lets down many thousands of refugees. As others have said before me, we support Jean-Claude Juncker’s proposals for an EU common plan. That makes sense and would add to the UK’s stature in these matters. As was mentioned earlier, the UK’s response has been tardy and has not been good, although it is better today than it was a day or two ago. However, there are others whose contribution is utterly risible, not least Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. They are wealthy countries that our Government have close connections with. What moral authority do our Government have in banging those countries’ heads together to get them to play a role when they themselves have been dragged to the table so reluctantly? This is about moral authority as much as anything else.

Several hon. Members rose

Tim Farron: I will not give way.

We expect our Governments to lead and not to follow, but over the past week we have found that this Government have followed. I am glad that they have, but it is a great shame that it took months, and the public outcry after that tragic photograph, to bring them to the table. In the past 24 hours or so we have seen the Government commit to what I suggest—forgive me if you think this is cynical—is the least they think they can get away with in the face of public opinion. I want to encourage us all to commit to the most we can do, for the benefit of our collective humanity, for those refugees and for our nation’s standing in the world.

3.55 pm

Helen Whately (Faversham and Mid Kent) (Con): Last week’s heartbreaking images united the country in horror and compassion. I have been deluged with letters

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and emails from constituents wishing to express their compassion, and I am sure the same is true for all hon. Members. This House has shown an unusual unity on the issue and has brought it on to our agenda for three days in a row. I welcome the tone of the motion tabled by the hon. Member for Moray (Angus Robertson) and his support for the Government’s long-term humanitarian commitment. I was rather disappointed that the hon. Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale (Tim Farron) set a contrasting tone and that he feels less pride in Britain’s long-term commitment to humanitarian support for refugees.

Personally, and on behalf of many of my constituents, I welcome the Prime Minister’s commitment to taking in 20,000 more Syrian refugees, on top of the 5,000 already here, and particularly the fact that they will be taken directly from the camps. That gives a safer route for the most vulnerable refugees, who would be unable to make the trek across Europe to Calais.

My constituency, and Kent overall, has felt the consequences of people making that trek across Europe in recent months. In particular, we have seen a large increase in the number of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children, and they need looking after. Kent County Council has worked extremely hard to find homes for those children, but it has run out of foster homes for them and for local children. Other councils have helped, but not nearly enough. In the coming weeks and months we need the rhetoric from local authority leaders across the country to be matched with action, with them taking in more families and, in particular, more children. I hope that we will now see a nationwide response, and that response needs to be centrally co-ordinated to ensure that those children are given homes across Britain, as the right hon. Member for Leicester East (Keith Vaz) suggested.

Although it is wonderful to welcome refugees, there is a cost. Kent County Council has estimated that there is an unfunded cost of £6 million in taking in extra asylum-seeking children this year. That financial burden needs to be shared across the country, not just in the areas that take a greater proportion of refugees. I welcome the proposal to use the foreign aid budget to help contribute to those costs.

Alison McGovern: The hon. Lady makes an important point. I think that I am right in saying that the north-west of England has taken the most refugees, so I agree that our job is to ensure that all parts of the country have the resources they need to welcome refugees should they want to.

Helen Whately: I thank the hon. Lady for that intervention. She is right that we need not only to welcome refugees in what we say, but to plan how to care for them properly. As my hon. and learned Friend the Member for South East Cambridgeshire (Lucy Frazer) said, we need to give them the chance of a good life in this country.

As the Opposition parties have recognised, the UK has made a huge contribution to helping refugees through our £1 billion aid commitment, which has not always been as popular as it is now. It is good to see that the country is rallying behind the virtues of making a contribution on that scale. However, we need to make sure that our emotional response to the images of last

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week does not cloud the reason in our response. I believe very strongly that we should concentrate our help where it can do most good. Most of the 12 million people displaced are still in the region, with 7.6 million in Syria, 1.9 million in Turkey, and 1.1 million in Lebanon. Being in those countries means they are more likely to return home when eventually their homes are safe, and then they will be in a position to help rebuild Syria, so we would be right to focus our aid there.

Stewart McDonald: May I make a suggestion that will not cost the Government a single penny? Will the hon. Lady join me in calling on the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, the hon. Member for Bournemouth East (Mr Ellwood), who is in his place, to get on the phone to the Saudi Arabian embassy here in the UK and ask that country to start taking some refugees, and Kuwait and Qatar too, because they do not even recognise refugees in their constitution? Many Members have mentioned Lebanon, but it is a fraction of the size of Saudi Arabia, so perhaps the Government could start to look at that side of things as well.

Helen Whately: Indeed, the other neighbouring countries, not just Lebanon and Turkey, should be taking refugees. I understand that in fact Saudi Arabia is taking some refugees and that families have invited other families to come and live with them. There may be more happening than we are aware. However, the hon. Gentleman makes an important point.

I want to talk about how our aid could be used in the refugee camps. It is important that it is used not only to provide shelter and food but to make life in those camps bearable. As we have heard, it is far from that now; in fact, many refugees do not even feel safe in them. My hon. Friend the Member for Oxford West and Abingdon (Nicola Blackwood) described this from the experience of her own visits to refugee camps. We must try to ensure that refugees have some quality of life. I recognise that the Government are doing what they can. A quarter of a million children are benefiting from having support for their education, thanks to our aid. I have read of a figure of £10 million being used specifically for building local capacity and longer-term stability in the region, but that sounds like a rather small share of £1 billion. More must be done to give refugees in the camps a chance to work, to learn and to develop their skills so that they will be able to contribute as and when Syria is safe to return to, and to give them purpose and a sense of hope.

Martin John Docherty: The hon. Lady mentions £10 million. Perhaps the Government would take up the point that rather than replacing Trident on the Clyde with £500 million, they should send that money to deal with some of the refugee crisis issues that we are facing.

Helen Whately: That is a completely separate debate and it is not appropriate to have it as part of this debate.

The battle against ISIL is ideological as much as military. We absolutely must win hearts and minds. As this is Britain’s largest ever humanitarian effort, it must not just be about providing sanctuary but must also count towards future peace and stability across the region.

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4.3 pm

Stuart C. McDonald (Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East) (SNP): I am very grateful for the opportunity to speak on this hugely important issue.

This is the most challenging refugee crisis since the second world war. It has brought some of the most miserable and wretched images to our television screens and newspaper front pages, but it has also brought out some of the best qualities in so many people across the UK and Europe. As other hon. Members have said, it is impossible not to have been impressed—indeed, bowled over—by the efforts of local organisations, community groups and individuals. It has also been clear to many in this Chamber that how we handle the global movement of refugees, including in the Mediterranean, is one of the rare issues that will come to define the legacy of this Parliament, as my hon. Friend the Member for West Dunbartonshire (Martin John Docherty) said. This is a test of policy and of leadership, but, more importantly, we are being tested on our humanity.

I fear that to date the Government have fallen short of pass marks, although, as the motion recognises, they do deserve credit for their support for humanitarian initiatives in the middle east. Of course, like colleagues, I give a warm but somewhat guarded welcome to the change in approach that has been signalled in the past few days—in particular, the decision to increase the number of Syrians being resettled in this country, as announced by the Prime Minister a few days ago. Nevertheless, I share the view that in many ways the Government have been too slow to respond and their response still falls short. If they listen to the arguments being made today by the united opposition and to the very clear message coming from people across the United Kingdom, they will still have a chance to salvage their position and, indeed, to help save more lives.

What more could and should the Government do? On the issue of resettlement from the middle east, I welcome the plans to increase the number of Syrians to be resettled directly in the UK. However, as many have made clear, people cannot wait until 2020 to reach safety, so we will scrutinise the Home Secretary’s forthcoming statement closely. We need to resettle more people and to resettle most of them very soon, not in five years. As the right hon. Member for Leicester East (Keith Vaz) has said, we need a strong target for this year.

We also need to think again about the position of unaccompanied minors who will come to the UK under the Government scheme, particularly the nature of the status they will be granted and their prospects for settlement and stability, which they need immediately. It is all very well to say that it may be possible for them to apply for settlement in the future, but many children’s organisations say that they need settlement and stability immediately.

I also wish to raise the issue of “double refugees.” I understand from people working in refugee camps in Lebanon that a significant number of refugees there have previously fled from Palestine and had been protected as refugees in Syrian camps. They have had to flee again and, despite not being documented as Syrians, that is the country from which they have been forced to flee. Is there not a powerful case for including them in the resettlement scheme? Let us consider the scope of the programme very carefully.

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The key question is the relocation of people who have already reached Europe. Other Members have already set out in considerable detail the conditions of squalor, tension and sometimes even violence that vulnerable people arriving in Europe too often have to endure. My own constituents have contacted me to speak about their horror on seeing such situations at first hand when visiting places such as Kos and Lesbos.

The people arriving on these islands and in the EU need our help. They need a co-ordinated EU response and the UK should play its part. For two or three countries to take on 350,000 people arriving in desperate circumstances is an impossible task. Among a union of 500 million people it is a challenge, but an eminently surmountable one, representing just 0.5% of the population.

Whatever our differences on the balance to be struck between relocation and resettlement, the one argument I cannot accept from Government Members is the claim that taking part in European Union programmes will encourage more people to take on the dangerous journey. First and foremost, that view fundamentally misunderstands the nature of the crisis. People are being driven to cross the Mediterranean through fear of persecution and human rights abuses and through desperation, not because of some distant possibility of relocation to the United Kingdom. Of course, back in May the UK shied away from the first EU attempt at agreeing 40,000 relocations. Has that stopped a single person making that trip? Of course not, so it is time for this myth peddling to stop and for the Government to step up to the plate by working with their European Union neighbours.

There are other ways in which the Government can respond to this motion’s call for them to play their full and proper role in providing sanctuary to our fellow human beings. At the very least, will they consider the call from Save the Children that the UK Government

“takes its fair share—3,000 of the most vulnerable children who are arriving in Europe—those who have arrived without family members, completely alone”?

As the charity says:

“We must ensure these children are safe and protected.”

I also hope there can be broader consensus on the need to reconsider how refugee family reunion rules apply in this particular situation. I appreciate that the Minister for Immigration will have already heard this two or three times this week, but one group of people for whom surely the UK is the most appropriate place to be is those with family members who have already been granted refugee status here. As they stand, the UK’s family reunion rules are tightly drawn. For example, a 19-year-old girl in a refugee camp in Lebanon, or who is stranded alone in Turkey, whose father has managed to make it to the United Kingdom and is recognised as a refugee will not usually be able to come here under those family reunion rules. Her family would be sorely tempted to resort to people smugglers to get her here.

Surely the Government will agree to look again at how the family reunion rules are being applied to those who are caught up in this crisis. The argument for that has been made forcefully by the Refugee Council, the Scottish Refugee Council, the Red Cross and many others. I note that Sweden and Switzerland have extended their family reunion programmes.

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Additionally, we need to see what further steps can be taken to provide practical support for those who wish to make family reunion applications. Lawyers and charities that are working for families here speak of the impossible bureaucracy when people approach UK embassies in the region. Let us make it as easy as we can for people to exercise their family reunion rights.

Finally, does this situation not illustrate how outrageous it is for refugees to be included in any net migration target? The Government appear to be incentivising the rejection of refugees. Is that not the worst possible signal to send out?

This was a chance for the Prime Minister to show leadership in one of the defining moments of his time in office. I regret that he has been guilty of belatedly following, instead of leading. He still has a chance to lead and I hope, for the sake of the refugees from Syria and elsewhere, that he grasps it urgently.

4.11 pm

Richard Graham (Gloucester) (Con): Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for calling me to talk about an issue that defines this summer and probably a longer period.

I congratulate the hon. Member for Moray (Angus Robertson) on tabling a motion on this humanitarian issue, which is vital not just to all of us here, but to many of our constituents. I would argue that the underlying issue is broader than that laid out in his motion. Why are there so many failing states in the middle east and north Africa? How can we help to prevent those states from reaching the chaos where so many millions of people are displaced, mostly outside their own country? What is it that states such as Jordan and Morocco have that makes them so much more successful? How can a region take ownership both of its people, as Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey are doing so spectacularly with help from the west, and of its stability and security? Those are critical questions, but I recognise that they are for another day and I hope that it comes soon.

The hon. Member for Moray introduced his motion with moving reference to his own story about the arrival of his mother in this country, which helps to explain his commitment to helping other refugees. There is much to agree with in his motion. It recognises the Government’s huge contribution to the camps for refugees from Syria and the commitment to take on 20,000 vulnerable Syrian refugees from those camps. It calls for a “full and proper role” for the UK in providing sanctuary.

However, the motion is very short of detail in some ways and divisive in one critical way. It calls for

“a greater international effort through the United Nations to secure the position of such displaced people”,

but what does that mean? The hon. Gentleman did not shed any light on what he expects the United Nations to do. Does it encompass the proposal from my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr Mitchell) for safe havens inside Syria? Is the hon. Gentleman thinking of no-fly zones? He said nothing about what he wants from the United Nations. I offer the thought that perhaps the most successful intervention by the United Nations in a state that had been through civil war was in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which was run by the United Nations for a period of years before being successfully returned under democratic elections. We need to look at that more closely in the longer term.

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The line that reveals the divisiveness of the motion is that which calls for the Government to report on

“how that number can be increased”.

That comes only two days after the Prime Minister’s announcement that our country would take 20,000 refugees. The hon. Member for Moray denied that this was a bidding war, but that is exactly what it looks and feels like. A cry goes up, “Something must be done.” A Labour leadership candidate agrees and says, “Yes, we should take 10,000.” The Prime Minister agrees and announces the framework and terms for taking 20,000 refugees, but the SNP, on its Opposition day, asks how that number can be increased, without mentioning a figure—neither the hon. Member for Moray, nor anybody else speaking for his party today has done so. We can be sure that if the Government did come back to raise the figure, whatever it was raised to would not be enough, and the SNP and others would ask how we could increase it further.

Hywel Williams: If it is a bidding war, how did the Government reach a figure of 20,000, rather than 20,001 or 19,999? I did ask the Secretary of State that precise question earlier—I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman was in his place then—and she was unable to give me a proper answer.

Richard Graham: I am not sure whether there was a question in there, Madam Deputy Speaker, although there may be one for the Government to offer on. The important thing I was going to say is that we should not get obsessed with a particular figure. We have heard moving speeches this afternoon from Members echoing what I believe to be the core point of the motion, which we all share: the requirement on the nation and on all of us to respond with compassion to an international disaster.

Several Members, most movingly my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford West and Abingdon (Nicola Blackwood), in an echo of what the hon. Member for Moray said, have told us that they are from immigrant families. I was working on aid projects in Africa almost 30 years ago, helping displaced people from neighbouring countries around there, and I was in Hong Kong when its Government, on behalf of the British Government, were trying to deal with the Vietnamese boat people. It is incredibly easy for people to be critical of situations involving refugees if they are not dealing with it themselves and do not have the responsibility at the time. We should recognise that, as many Members have said. This nation does have a strong record, and we should be pulling together and doing our best to help people in the ways that we can.

On that note, I thought the most discordant speech heard in this Chamber for a long while—it was almost a disgraceful speech—was that by the hon. Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale (Tim Farron). He seems to have entirely forgotten that his party, when in coalition government with my party, was responsible for bringing together this considerable increase in our commitment to international development, which has led to our being able to provide huge sums in funding and help hundreds of thousands of people, if not more than 1 million, in the refugee camps just outside Syria. It was extraordinary that all he could bring himself to say was that this Government “react with dogs” and barbed wire, in a reference to Calais. He made no reference to

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what is being achieved for the refugees from Syria. Unfortunately, a number of Members have descended into making party political points, especially the hon. Member for Hammersmith (Andy Slaughter), who sounded the most extraordinary, tribal note, referring to a “rush to arms”, which is not even the subject of this debate. Instead of doing that, we should be focusing today on what we all share and what we can achieve together.

On that note, I wish to make a practical suggestion that I believe would make a real difference to this nation’s handling of the refugee crisis. I touched on it earlier in an intervention on my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. The most practical thing we can do is encourage the leading charities and non-governmental organisations, perhaps in that meeting on Friday with the Government, to come together to create a new Syrian refugee fund, perhaps administered by Save the Children in particular, although others should be involved. Such a fund would allow so many of our generous constituents around the whole country to contribute, and it should be matched pound for pound by the Government. That would enable a significant fund to be available to help the refugees when they come to this country. It could be disbursed through local government authorities or it could be done directly, but all these are issues that should be resolved. We have done this before. We did it successfully in response to the typhoon in the Philippines about 18 months ago, when many people in our constituencies contributed. St Peter’s school in my constituency raised funds and gave a lot of time towards doing so. Such an approach helps the people of Britain to realise that the Government share their sympathy and compassion, and will match what they give pound for pound. That is a practical suggestion that would help us.

Some hon. Members have intimated that we should do almost everything that Germany is doing. It seems to me extraordinary that we should feel obliged to get into some form of bidding war with Germany, of all nations. We should surely recognise that Germany is dealing not only with today’s humanitarian crisis—[Interruption.] The SNP would do well to listen—but with her own modern history. We should respect and admire that but not see German commitments as a competitive challenge.

We should recognise that each country can contribute differently. For example, the role of the Royal Navy in the Mediterranean in saving more than 6,000 people who might otherwise have drowned is not something that many countries in the European Union could emulate, and certainly not Germany. We should recognise that we can all make our own separate and different contribution to the crisis. We should pull together; make sure that we get on with implementing what has already been announced by the Prime Minister, and not try to split hairs about numbers of refugees; encourage the charities to create the fund in which the Government will match what individuals donate; locally capture significant offers of help through the asylum and refugee offices in our own counties; and make it happen.

4.21 pm

Alison McGovern (Wirral South) (Lab): It is good to speak in this important debate. I listened carefully to the contribution from the hon. Member for Gloucester

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(Richard Graham) and the remarks that he made about whether numbers matter. Of course, it is not numbers that matter, but need. If some of us are exasperated about numbers, it is because the Government are not doing enough and we are trying to encourage them in that direction.

I want to send out a message from this House that I hope everyone will agree with. It was a fine innovation when we decided that it would not just be for the Government to dictate our agenda, but for the public. Hundreds of thousands of people have signed e-petitions and the House has listened and put the issues that matter onto our agenda. One of those issues is one that the British people care about not for their own sakes, but for the sake of others. It is testimony to everybody who bothered to sign the petition that they are changing politics today.

One of the great moral puzzles is working out what we owe to others who are far away—who are not of our own family but of someone else’s family far away—and the Secretary of State answered that question in her contribution. She has met refugees and she told us about them. She has met people who have fled Syria, and she told us what she had heard from them. I ask whether anyone can hear those stories, or the contributions from the hon. Members for Glasgow North East (Anne McLaughlin) and for Oxford West and Abingdon (Nicola Blackwood), and not wonder if we can do a little more.

When we meet people, we realise they are just like us. I want to read out the words of Hassan, who is 14 and from Syria. He said:

“The children in Syria need help. They need help because they are being tortured, shelled, shot at. They take children and put them in front of them. They create a human shield of children. They know that the people in the town will not shoot their own children. I saw this with my own eyes.

I want children in Syria to escape. They should run away so they don’t die in the shelling.

What do I remember of Syria? I remember that whenever shelling took place we ran to a shelter. Inside, children shouted and wept a lot, they were so afraid. I remember that so many children were being tortured.

Because of what is happening in Syria we don’t play any more. I miss my house. I miss my neighbourhood. I miss playing football.”

Football, the universal language. The more we find out about the refugees, the more we realise that we are just like them, and that is why we need to help them.

The problem is that progress feels painfully slow. Back in 2014, we had a debate about whether the Government should join the UN resettlement scheme. The Government said that they would not join it, and in the end they came up with their own scheme. As Member after Member has said, that scheme has taken insufficient numbers. My right hon. Friend the Member for Leicester East (Keith Vaz) mentioned the debate I held about refugees. In June, I asked the Prime Minister whether he felt that we were doing enough to help vulnerable children from Syria. In his words, he said that he was “convinced that we are”. It took the events in August to make him realise how wrong he was. Forgive me, Madam Deputy Speaker, if I am a little bit infuriated at times at such very slow progress.

I want to make two brief points and then say a final word. First, I know that the Government are capable of listening. The Secretary of State for International

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Development has listened and, as evidence has come before her, she has changed her position. She is a reasonable person who has done the right thing. I know that Ministers are prepared to do the right thing, so I say this to them. Let us be a part of Europe. Let us see what is happening on the southern coast of our continent, in Greece and in Italy, and say to the people there, “We stand with you. We know that you cannot deal with this alone.” Let us in this House listen to Matteo Renzi’s call to be a part of Europe and to demonstrate our European values by saying that we believe in freedom, tolerance and respect, as well as a place to live and a decent life for each and every person. Let us show some leadership. My right hon. Friend the Member for Leicester East, the Chair of the Home Affairs Committee, said that leadership has been lacking. Let us change that, because the rest of Europe is crying out for the UK to play a role, in part by offering sanctuary to some of the people who, perhaps in exceptional circumstances, are already in Europe.

Mark Durkan: My hon. Friend may recall that she questioned the Prime Minister in October 2013, following the EU Council, on precisely these issues in the Mediterranean. At that time, the Prime Minister told her that

“we should try to avoid the sense that there are…front-line states…that are under particular pressure.”—[Official Report, 28 October 2013; Vol. 569, c. 664.]

He went on to use Hungary as a comparator to show that the UK was taking its fair share of the burden.

Alison McGovern: In this debate, several hon. Members have reminded me of my previous contributions, and I thank them for doing so. I will not shut up about this because these people matter. In response to what we said in 2013, 2014 and this year, the Government have demonstrated that they have the capacity to change their mind. All I ask is that they show what sensible, reasonable people they are and change their mind again.

We need to play such a role in Europe. We need to demonstrate—whether in exceptional circumstances, or under whatever definition we set—that we are prepared to help our friends in Europe. The UK needs to be

“a piece of the Continent, a part of the main”,

as John Donne, one of our country’s finest poets, said.

Secondly, we need truly to respond in policy terms to the outpouring of good will towards refugees and victims of the conflict in Syria. Never mind the numbers; let us show that we have heard what the people of Britain think and take refugees out of the migration target. I think that the Government have failed on their migration target, which was ill-conceived for loads of reasons to do with the place of universities in our economy and the needs of great businesses, such as Unilever in my patch. It was a bad idea, but they are the Government and they have a right to do it. What they do not have the right to do is to say that we should decide whether we are living up to our duty towards the people coming to our country needing our help and needing sanctuary on the basis of some arbitrary statistical target that they have set for themselves in the heat of an election.

Hannah Bardell (Livingston) (SNP): I congratulate the hon. Lady on her incredible and hugely impassioned speech. Does she agree that this is not about numbers?

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We must stop talking about such people as numbers; they are human beings. This is a human tragedy, and it needs a human response. Every time somebody has to flee their country as a result of what is happening, it is a tragedy. I share her views.

Alison McGovern: I thank the hon. Lady for her contribution. She makes my point for me perhaps more eloquently than I was able to when I said earlier that one is better than none. For each person we can help, we should be glad we have done so in the knowledge that immigrants to this country make a massive contribution and build us up to what we are today.

I ask the Government to think again. They have shown they can do it. They have shown that they are prepared to listen. I ask them to show that compassion and reason once more. It makes no sense to say on the one hand that we will decide whether somebody can claim asylum and seek sanctuary in this country based on need and based on their circumstances, while on the other hand counting in refugees with a migration target that is essentially just a number that has been decided for other reasons. We should decide each case based on its merits.

I do not underestimate the size and scale of what we are asking local authority leaders to do. I do not underestimate that for a moment, and I thought the hon. Member for Faversham and Mid Kent (Helen Whately) made some serious and excellent points on that, but that is why it is all the more deeply impressive that local authority leaders, such as Richard Leese and Joe Anderson in the north-west of England, have stood up to be counted. They have said that their parts of the world will welcome refugees and will do all that is necessary to provide sanctuary for them. Of course, the Government will have to work hard to make sure there are resources and we need to empower local communities so that they feel able to welcome refugees, but working together we can do it. As it happens, DFID resources have often been spent, as necessary, on people in this country. We need to find different ways to fund this effort, but I applaud all local authority leaders who have shown that they are prepared to welcome refugees into their city, town or county.

In closing, I want to say a final word on refugee camps. I have never visited a refugee camp, but the Secretary of State has and she made an excellent case for why they are not the best idea in terms of sanctuary. They are temporary and they are unsafe. They can be good places where people can get medical care, but in the end it comes down to this: nobody’s home should be a camp. That is why we need to truly understand what it means to give sanctuary. It does not just mean, “Here’s a roof over your head for the moment,” necessary though that is. It does not just mean a way to feed somebody’s children and give them medical care, absolutely necessary though that is. It means: here is the place where you can belong. That is sanctuary, that is what we should offer refugees, and that is why we will keep asking the Government until they do more.

4.23 pm

Mims Davies (Eastleigh) (Con): Thank you for allowing me to join this important debate, Madam Deputy Speaker. I welcome the considered remarks from across the House, particularly those from the Secretary of State. I was particularly interested in the views of my hon. Friend

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the Member for Gloucester (Richard Graham) on post-war Bosnia. I visited Bosnia in 1999, after the war, and it was a fascinating place to be. Street by street, house by house, people were rebuilding their lives alongside our boys and girls, who were working so hard alongside colleagues from the UN. It was fascinating to see how things can be built fairly quickly after the breakdown of communities. My hon. Friend’s practical suggestion is very important and I hope note has been taken of it.

I am proud of my Government’s commitment to build on further international development work and take 20,000 refugees. I am sure we have all had a huge amount of correspondence on this issue—I certainly have. The question today is: are we doing everything? One of my councillors, Elizabeth Lear, personally wrote to me and the local borough council to suggest we take at least five families from the camps. She is just one person who wants to act and do the right thing. She sees the challenges in local government, as I did up until May, of housing, schools and integration—things we should be very mindful of.

People in Eastleigh and across the UK have watched the humanitarian crisis unfold this summer and over the past four years and are asking what we are doing about it and whether we, in this Chamber, are doing everything that is right to help. The Government have rightly answered them with a robust plan. Eleven million humans—as we have heard today, these are humans, people—are affected, and 3% of them have made the perilous journey to the sanctuary of Europe, often by exploitative means, but in the camps in Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan many still suffer greatly.

The crisis is large, as are our moral and practical responsibilities. In Lebanon, Syrian refugees now account for one quarter of the population. Let us just think about how to manage that day in, day out. It is therefore right that Britain is providing 18 million food rations and that 1.6 million people now have vital access to clean water. This summer, people in this country suffered from not having clean water because of bacteria in the supply, and we saw how difficult it made day-to-day life. It is right also that Britain is providing education to 250,000 children. Those children are benefiting because of this country. I believe that we, as one of the leading aid supporters in this crisis, are doing our bit. The world looked with horror at the tragedy this summer of those making the perilous journey across the Mediterranean, and I am sure that the whole House rightly pays tribute to the work of our men and women in the Royal Navy rescuing the people and families desperate enough to make the journey. To date, it has rescued 6,700 people from the sea.

Like others, I want briefly to dwell on the root of the problem—the foul actions of Assad against his own people. We also need to stop Daesh, or ISIL, which enslaves, butchers and terrorises. Its people systemically rape women, commit atrocities and murder; they are callous and reprehensible. We must not forget, therefore, that many of these refugees are fleeing exactly that. However, we must not be left with a simple choice between Daesh and Assad. I believe we can help to provide a better future for Syria. It is possible. It need not be a choice between two evils; there can be a future of stability and peace such as we have seen in Bosnia and Europe. That should be our ultimate goal.

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This country must help to stabilise the countries from which refugees are coming by busting the criminal gangs, seeking out new solutions and using our aid budget to alleviate the suffering. Where evil continues to flourish, we must exercise our moral and humanitarian duties, and use our influence at the emergency meeting on the 14th of this month of Justice and Home Affairs Ministers to get a comprehensive plan on refugees, on making other countries meet their aid obligations and on stopping the exploitative criminal gangs.

I echo the sentiments of my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford West and Abingdon (Nicola Blackwood) about the right kind of sanctuary. We must recognise this new type of all-encompassing humanitarian crisis. The many hon. Members who have spoken about their refugee background have rightly highlighted the diversity of our history and our enduring ability as a country to do the right thing. This reminds us of when our country stands tallest, such as in the past when we have gained people their freedom, and the British people have seen wrong abroad and without consideration for national, ethnic or other identifiers said, “Enough is enough.”

Our children’s safety and security depend on the actions and choices of this House, as does the future of the Syrian children. We must continue to work for a true and comprehensive approach across Europe, as highlighted by our Prime Minister. This true humanitarian nation does not merely help its own, but helps others in need, and I stand proudly behind that tradition and the actions of our Government.