I am grateful for the opportunity in a couple of minutes to represent the thousand or so constituents who have contacted me, as well as the international organisations based in my constituency such as Mercy Corps.
I would like to make three brief points and not reiterate what has already been said in this excellent debate. My first point is that this is a refugee and humanitarian crisis on an unprecedented scale. This year alone, 350,000 have crossed the Mediterranean, and it has been the worst place in the world for a humanitarian crisis. According to the Scottish Refugee Council, 2,643 people have been killed and lost their lives making those journeys this year. This is not an economic migrant crisis; it is a refugee crisis, with people fleeing persecution from places ravaged by war. They are risking their own lives and those of their families as a very much a last resort.
That brings me to my second brief point in this short speech, which concerns unaccompanied children. We need to participate in helping such children who are already here in Europe. The Prime Minister’s announcement yesterday involved only people who were directly airlifted from the region. Although there are reasons why that is desirable, we must bear in mind the children who have been coming into Europe and across to Calais looking for sanctuary. We cannot imagine our sons or daughters, our nieces or nephews, our grandsons or granddaughters, making those journeys on their own. Those children need to be given sanctuary in this country.
Let me make my third very brief point directly to the Home Secretary. When she goes to the home affairs Ministers’ meeting in Europe, she must play a full role in ensuring that Britain maintains the search and rescue missions in the Mediterranean and improves the safe and legal routes into and through Europe, that we strengthen the reception and processing of refugees, and that the burden is spread across Europe, relieving, in particular, the pressures on southern Italy and Greece. Ministers must agree to share the burden of resettlement across Europe. Twenty thousand is just a number; this must be about individual people who are fleeing persecution and war zones to countries across Europe.
I hope that the Home Secretary will step up to the mark. The Prime Minister has been shamed this week, but the Home Secretary has an opportunity to resolve the situation next week. I hope she takes that opportunity to ensure that Britain, once again, takes the responsibility that it has been known for taking throughout history.