Syrian Refugee Crisis January 2016

Thank you for contacting me regarding the refugee crisis in Europe.

I voted against the invasion of Iraq but we went to war and destabilised the region and opened a Pandora’s Box of religious fundamentalism which has led to ISIS, civil wars and bodies washed up on beaches. These root causes must be addressed and not repeated, yet as I write the Government wants to bomb Syria.

I know that many constituents will share my dismay and anguish at the dreadful loss of life we have seen in recent months among people attempting to cross the Mediterranean, and at the shocking images of children drowning and people suffocating to death in smugglers' lorries.

This is now one of the worst humanitarian crises to hit Europe since the Second World War and it is also a test of the British values of compassion and decency we hold so dear.

We must keep in mind the fact that they are refugees fleeing from an appalling civil war, which is destroying much of their country. However, the thought of commencing air strikes against IS in Syria will inevitably lead to more death and destruction and will only serve to make this situation worse.

I have long believed that the Government should be doing more to help Syrian refugees fleeing the civil war and that it is shameful that so far the Government's Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme has only helped a couple of hundred Syrian refugees. Labour has been calling for much greater action on this issue for the last 18 months.

I am pleased that the Government has agreed to take more refugees directly from Syria, Turkey and Jordan. This will hopefully reduce the numbers of people risking their lives by crossing the Mediterranean. We should also redouble efforts to help tackle the traffickers and people smugglers who prey on people's fear and desperation. 

I know from the large number of e-mails and letters I have received and from the many thousands of people that have signed online petitions that there is also real public concern about this issue. 

It is as a result of this concerted pressure that the Prime Minister has now indicated that more Syrian refugees will be welcomed to Britain. The Prime Minister announced that the UK are going to take in 20,000 Syrian refugees over 5 years. While I welcome this, I believe we can do more in a shorter timeframe and I hope the Government will do all it can to help the most vulnerable of the refugees, in particular orphaned children. In the longer term we need to rebuild stability in the Middle East so people can return home.

I believe, though, that as well as agreeing to take more refugees as an emergency measure, the Prime Minister should be engaging with EU leaders to agree a process for dealing with this crisis at Europe's borders. I can assure you that I will continue to follow this very carefully and consider in detail any proposals that the Government bring forward.

Thank you once again for writing to me and for sharing your views on this extremely important issue.