Opposition Day — [19th Allotted Day] — UNHCR Syrian Refugees Programme

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:54 pm on 29th January 2014.

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Photo of Elfyn Llwyd Elfyn Llwyd Shadow PC Spokesperson (Wales), Plaid Cymru Westminster Leader, Shadow PC Spokesperson (Constitution), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Foreign Affairs), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Justice), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Defence), Shadow PC Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) 2:54 pm, 29th January 2014

Of course in any refugee crisis, if somebody’s suffering can be alleviated nearer home, it is always better to do that than displacing them to a country further away. I fully agree with that. I urge the Government, even at this late stage, to consider the UNHCR scheme. I have heard what the Secretary of State has had to say on the matter, and there is some force in her argument, but I cannot understand why we are not part of the scheme. The all-pervading hysteria about migration of any sort seems to have clouded the issue. Surely humanity should dictate what we all do. When I questioned the Home Secretary earlier on, I made the point that the refugee status under international law is entirely different and should in no way be affected by the toxic debate about migration, to which we are all being subjected by the media. As one who does not have any nightmares about the UK Independence party or about Farage and that bunch, I add that Wales has a long and proud tradition of welcoming people from around the world. I urge the Government to involve the Welsh Government in this most important of policies. Plaid Cymru has in the past called for Wales to be taken into account by the Migration Advisory Committee, which develops policy. The committee works with Scotland and Northern Ireland but, for some reason, not Wales. I hope that there will be a change in that policy shortly.

I urge the Government to continue to pursue a diplomatic solution and I hope that they will bring further pressure to bear on Russia in the talks. I know that such things are going on and it is fairly obvious and trite for us to state that they need to, but it is right that we should detail them. We all realise, I am sure, that Russia is key to persuading Assad and his supporters to reach some form of reasonable compromise. It is possible that the current round of talks will produce consensus between Russia and the United States on what the next steps towards peace should be.

Today’s statement is very welcome as far as it goes, but despite all the speeches so far I am still unclear about why the Government cannot commit fully to the UNHCR’s resettlement programme. The Government have been sending humanitarian aid, but it is now urgent to ensure that there are safe corridors in that troubled country so that aid can be sent to where it can be effective. That question was touched on by the Home Secretary earlier, and I think it is crucial that that should happen.

In the spirit of the consensus that seems to be developing on all but one or two issues, I hope that we will not divide on the motion today but will move forward with a consensual approach. I hope that the Government will keep everybody fully informed of progress over the coming weeks and months.