Iraqi Refugees

Part of Constitutional Reform – in the House of Commons at 4:50 pm on 3rd July 1991.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr David Howell Mr David Howell , Guildford 4:50 pm, 3rd July 1991

That is very much a matter for debate. My view is rather close to that of the hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick), but I must not anticipate a longer and more substantial report from the Select Committee on the security situation in the middle east following the liberation of Kuwait. I am aware that many people share the hon. Gentleman's view.

We must bear in mind that whatever arrangements or dispositions we make for troops—be they UN security forces or whatever—to protect the refugees, those arrangements are temporary because those people will live in fear whatever we do so long as there is a violent dictator in Baghdad whose habits, character and track record have been to persecute and kill.

The Select Committee's third observation is that the great refugee crisis has placed a huge strain on the Overseas Development Administration. We have high praise for the way in which the ODA has reacted in trying to meet the crisis. We must recognise, as I am sure the ODA recognises, that the Government Department, in addition to the Iraqi refugee crisis, is meeting four other huge crises of disruption, pressure and potential disaster around the world. Although there have been the horrors of starvation, killing and dying in Iraq, such things are happening on as great a scale, even on a more evil and terrifying scale, as a result of natural forces in the Horn of Africa. There are horrors in Bangladesh, where vast storms caused the deaths of tens of thousands of people.

Finally, the ODA is the lead Department in coping with developments and in encouraging democratic development throughout eastern Europe. That objective, is by no means yet secure and much work and effort will have to be expended on it. That objective may not be on the same scale as the tragedy of the others, but it is a major task. Let us hope that it does not become a tragedy, as it will if the trouble in the Balkans affects the rest of eastern Europe. The ODA is under enormous strain and we welcome the decision to review the way in which it can meet those huge burdens in future.