Mediterranean Migration

Oral Answers to Questions — International Development – in the House of Commons at 11:30 am on 8th July 2015.

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Photo of Stephen Metcalfe Stephen Metcalfe Conservative, South Basildon and East Thurrock 11:30 am, 8th July 2015

What her Department’s role is in tackling conditions in countries from which migrants are trying to reach Europe across the Mediterranean.

Photo of Justine Greening Justine Greening The Secretary of State for International Development

Last week I announced a package of initiatives that will provide emergency aid as well as jobs and education to help to address the root causes of the migrant crisis. This includes support worth £217 million to help some 2.5 million refugees and vulnerable people in Africa, and an additional £100 million to help those who have been displaced as a result of the Syria crisis.

Photo of Stephen Metcalfe Stephen Metcalfe Conservative, South Basildon and East Thurrock

Does my right hon. Friend believe that the number of people attempting to cross the Mediterranean would be far higher were it not for our aid programme that is helping to keep people in or near their own countries, thus preventing them from coming to Europe?

Photo of Justine Greening Justine Greening The Secretary of State for International Development

I believe that it does help. We know that people are moving to escape conflict as refugees, and to get jobs and a better future. Our work is upstream and is a long-term strategy, and our jobs agenda is providing jobs and better economic development to provide opportunities where people are. Our commitment to the Syrian crisis to date is £900 million, and as a result only 2% of the 11 million displaced Syrians have sought asylum in Europe.

Photo of Andrew Gwynne Andrew Gwynne Shadow Minister (Health)

A recent report by the Independent Commission for Aid Impact—the Government aid watchdog—gave Ministers an amber-red rating for their interventions in security and justice, and stated that they were not yet making

“a real difference to fragile and conflict states”.

Getting this issue right is crucial to solving some of the underlying reasons behind the migration crisis. What more is the Secretary of State doing to ensure that DFID funding is spent wisely?

Photo of Justine Greening Justine Greening The Secretary of State for International Development

The hon. Gentleman highlights a difficult area, and the issue of security and justice for a country such as Eritrea is one of the main drivers of people leaving that country. At the same time, our standards on human rights mean that we would not work with police forces, for example, if we thought that abuses were taking place while we were carrying out a programme. We try to strike the right balance and, as he mentions, tracking the results of that can be long term and not uncomplicated.

Photo of Mary Glindon Mary Glindon Labour, North Tyneside

The Secretary of State has argued that so few Syrian refugees have sought safety in Europe because of aid sent to the region, but how does she square that with the increasing number of Syrians risking their lives to cross the Mediterranean?

Photo of Justine Greening Justine Greening The Secretary of State for International Development

As I said, that is a small proportion. The hon. Lady should be aware that the UN flash appeal, which is to encourage the international community to ensure the right level of support for refugees, is around 20% funded. We should not be surprised that the conditions that refugees end up living in are not good enough, and that they might want to seek a better life for themselves. We can be proud of the work that the UK is doing, but not enough other countries are joining us in that.

Photo of Gavin Shuker Gavin Shuker Shadow Minister (International Development)

The Syrian crisis has created nearly 4 million refugees, yet fewer than 200 have settled back in the UK through the Syrian vulnerable persons relocation scheme. Given that, and the need for safe passage for those seeking asylum in this country, will the Minister say what discussions she has had with her counterparts at the Home Office to discuss expanding the numbers and the safety of those seeking asylum in the UK?

Photo of Justine Greening Justine Greening The Secretary of State for International Development

Alongside the vulnerable persons scheme, this country has accepted well over 4,000 Syrian asylum cases since the conflict began. We work across Government to ensure a joined-up approach to helping people who have been affected by the crisis.