Let me first offer my apologies, Mr Speaker, for having to leave the Chamber immediately after my speech; we are interviewing the mayor of Calais about the refugee crisis. No one can have failed to be deeply moved by the picture of Aylan’s lifeless body on a beach in Turkey. We can do nothing for him but mourn, while our consciences cry out to act now, and to act with compassion. It is a hard-headed duty to address the root causes and ask the difficult questions.
I welcome the Prime Minister’s statement yesterday that on top of aid spending on the humanitarian crisis, which will reach £1 billion, we will be welcoming 20,000 refugees to the UK. Especially welcome is the news that they will be taken from the camps around Syria, because it is often the women and children who remain behind in the camps closest to conflict. Those are the most vulnerable, where duty and conscience collide. It is our clear duty to do all we can to deter the people traffickers peddling false hope by selling death in airless lorries and cramming families on to leaking dinghies that seal their fate.
We are seeing levels of migration not experienced since the second world war, or indeed since the partition of India and Pakistan, when over 1 million people perished and many millions more were left homeless and were settled elsewhere. Those were the harrowing stories that I grew up with, with distant relatives never getting over their journey and having lost their relatives.
A global crisis needs an international response. That is why it is right that our generous international aid budget will be reassigned to provide the funding to support 20,000 refugees. I would however urge us to assess how and where our money and humanitarian relief is allocated and to which agencies. We should consider assigning more of these funds to local authorities and British-based agencies so that they can offer a longer period of support and shelter.
Aylan’s father gave a heart-rending speech at the funeral of his wife and children that revealed an important truth: the family, all Syrian Kurds, did not feel welcome in Turkey. Turkey has borne the brunt of the refugee crisis, but we must ask whether its attitude towards the Kurds—the one group proven to have taken the fight to Daesh—has not made the situation worse. Equally, Aylan’s father asked what the Arab-speaking countries in the region were doing. The lack of welcome for refugees across the middle east cannot be ignored any longer. Let us ask the hard-headed question: where are the Arab countries in all of this? It is not enough for them to speak passionately about Muslim solidarity but fail to step up to the plate in the midst of this crisis. We should ask why none of the Gulf countries has signed the refugee convention, and we should make our aid to them conditional on acceptance of international norms.
We must be prepared to tackle the fundamental cause of the instability wreaking havoc in the middle east. Wahhabi extremism is the cancer that has destroyed the body politic of Syria and Iraq. Daesh needs to be destroyed. There can be no political solution until that has happened. We must hold our nerve and consider effective military intervention at the earliest opportunity.