Refugee Crisis in Europe

Part of Bill Presented — Devolution (London) Bill – in the House of Commons at 3:25 pm on 8th September 2015.

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Photo of Joanna Cherry Joanna Cherry Shadow SNP Westminster Group Leader (Justice and Home Affairs) 3:25 pm, 8th September 2015

The hon. Lady has made a very good point, with which I agree.

I mentioned what the First Minister said last week. As has been made clear, the Scottish Government stand ready to do whatever they can to help to alleviate the crisis; but these are reserved matters, and the Scottish Government depend on the UK Government’s doing the right thing so that we can do the right thing in Scotland. To date, the UK Government’s response has been deeply disappointing. We recognise and support the funding that they have committed to the humanitarian initiatives to provide refuge and sanctuary in camps in the war zones of the middle east, but that significant effort must not be allowed to distract attention from the other significant efforts that are needed.

During our Opposition day debate tomorrow, the Scottish National party will elaborate on the action that we believe needs to be taken to deal with this humanitarian crisis. We will present three arguments. First, the United Kingdom should be part of the refugee solution, and we should accept our fair share of the refugees who are in and coming to Europe. We should recognise that these people have embarked on the often fatal journey towards southern Europe precisely because all other routes of refuge have been closed off, and we want the UK Government to assure the House that the UK will work with our EU neighbours in the European Commission resettlement programme to be announced tomorrow. Frankly, the UK Government’s refusal to work with the Commission’s current resettlement agreement to date has been an absolute disgrace.

The second point we will be making tomorrow when we elaborate our points in the Opposition day debate is that this humanitarian crisis should not be used as a cover for military intervention by the United Kingdom in Syria. The fact is that air strikes are already taking place on a daily basis by a US-led alliance, and since the advent of those air strikes the refugee crisis has not diminished; it has intensified. To bomb both Daesh and Assad-controlled areas, as the Chancellor has suggested, would not leave much of an already ravaged country unbombed, and that can only contribute further to the crisis before us.

Thirdly, the SNP will argue that the UK should sponsor a renewed UN initiative to secure and support safe corridors and camps throughout the middle east. If we base our response on humanitarian necessity as opposed to military intervention, we might help, rather than hinder, our fellow human beings. The UK must now play a proportionate role in conjunction with its European partners. It simply will not do for the Prime Minister to say that the UK will take only 20,000 refugees over the course of this Parliament, and those only from camps and elsewhere in Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon. Germany has said that she will take up to 800,000 refugees, and in a matter of days will easily have outstripped the 20,000 the Prime Minister has said he wants to take over five years.

Who could forget the images on our television screens at the weekend of refugees walking towards the border with Germany carrying images of German Chancellor Angela Merkel torn from newspapers? How proud Germans must feel that their leader has taken such a moral lead; I wish that we, as members of this Union of nations, could have a similar pride in our United Kingdom Government.