I welcome the opportunity to debate the plight of the refugees, having been a supporter of our efforts throughout the crisis. I am disappointed that the shadow Home Secretary did not extend the motion. The refugee crisis is not just in Europe, and the cause of the crisis is not in Europe. This is a refugee crisis far bigger than Europe, and we should be working further with the countries of the middle east.
There are 9 million displaced people in Syria: 3% have left for Europe, but there are still 1.9 million in Turkey, 1.1 million in Lebanon, 600,000 in Jordan, while Algeria has taken in only 25,000, Bahrain 500 and Saudi Arabia 561 with 100 asylum seekers. They have given some money, but nowhere near the £1 billion that this country has led with.
This humanitarian crisis has been happening ever since the Syrian civil war. It has taken us time to start putting the aid in. I welcome the announcement that this country will take refugees directly from camps around Syria. There are 4 million in the camps, 39% of whom are 11 or under, with 51% under 18. I am pleased that the Government have said that they will concentrate on the most vulnerable people. Those are the people in the gravest danger.
We have led the way as a country in delivering humanitarian aid to people in the region, and £1 billion is no small sum. To those who say we are not doing enough, I have to say that that does a disservice to those who have been working with DFID and its partner agencies. We have been leading the world in hitting our 0.7% target.
We are absolutely right to be taking people from the camps and not to be helping the traffickers gain out of others’ misery. The best place to deliver that aid is in theatre—in Syria and the region. When the war is over, we will eventually have to tackle the problem with our international partners. I want Syria to be restored to the diverse, educated and economically stable country that it once was. The Syrian people have been afflicted by brutal and undemocratic regimes, but they are a tolerant people and have it in themselves to recover.
We must reach out to the Syrians and others affected by Daesh atrocities, including the Kurds and the Yazidis as well, but we have to be mindful of our responsibilities. We cannot look after anyone else if we cannot look after ourselves. In my own crowded city of Portsmouth,
I spend a lot of time working with people who face housing difficulties or helping to resolve problems in education and health.
Many Portsmouth people have written to me, as other constituents have written to their MPs, because they would like to help by taking people in. Some have been collecting aid already and they have taken it off to Calais. I am going to urge them to keep some of it for the people who will be coming into the UK. We will need to support the care for refugees beyond their first year in the UK; the burden must not fall only on the local authorities. People want to be assured that we are not undermining our own society in trying to support others.
We must not decrease our overseas aid while we put in aid to fund the refugees here. I urge the Government to carry on contributing part of the £1 billion or more to the Syrian camps. We must give the refugees shelter now and offer them the prospect of a return home after the war. We cannot permit the collapse of society in one of the cradles of civilisation. We know Daesh has been on a campaign of atrocity against Syria’s history and its pluralistic society. Unless we restore Syria as a state and a people, we will have failed.