Refugee Crisis

Oral Answers to Questions — Foreign and Commonwealth Office – in the House of Commons at 11:30 am on 24th November 2015.

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Photo of Carolyn Harris Carolyn Harris Labour, Swansea East 11:30 am, 24th November 2015

What recent discussions he has had with his counterparts in the EU Foreign Affairs Council on the refugee crisis.

Photo of Philip Hammond Philip Hammond Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

As the hon. Lady can well imagine, I discuss the current migration crisis with my EU counterparts on a regular basis—for example at the Foreign Affairs Council last Monday in Brussels and when I met the Visegrad Group of EU countries in Prague the previous Friday. All of them agree now on the importance of a comprehensive approach to tackling the underlying causes of irregular migration, and the UK is playing a leading role in delivering this approach.

Photo of Carolyn Harris Carolyn Harris Labour, Swansea East

I thank the Secretary of State for his answer. Can he share with us what progress has been made with our European colleagues to create simple and safe routes for refugees to be reunited with their families who have already found sanctuary in Britain?

Photo of Philip Hammond Philip Hammond Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

The refugees we are mainly discussing in relation to the hon. Lady’s question about discussions with my EU colleagues are those arriving within the Schengen area. As Britain is not in the Schengen area, clearly those people would not be able to access the UK in the normal course of events, so their future will be within the Schengen area unless and until at some point in the quite far-off future they obtain EU citizenship.

Photo of Kelly Tolhurst Kelly Tolhurst Conservative, Rochester and Strood

Will my right hon. Friend explain what more action can be taken to stop Assad’s murder of his own people, which together with ISIL terror, is contributing to the current refugee crisis?

Photo of Philip Hammond Philip Hammond Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Clearly there is agreement across the EU that we need to address these issues upstream, and one of the most pressing upstream challenges is the civil war in Syria. As I have already said once this afternoon, the Prime Minister will set out our comprehensive approach to that problem—military, political and humanitarian—on Thursday.

Photo of Rob Flello Rob Flello Labour, Stoke-on-Trent South

What part of the discussions at the EU Foreign Affairs Council has centred on the very real genocide that is happening, including in UNHCR refugee camps in Lebanon, Jordan and the Kurdish autonomous region, by radicalised Islamists linked to Daesh who are killing people—killing Christians—in those camps and driving them out of them?

Photo of Philip Hammond Philip Hammond Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

I have to tell the hon. Gentleman candidly that that has not been the focus of the discussion in the Foreign Affairs Council about the migration crisis, but I am aware of concerns about what is going on in the camps. The UK’s approach is to invest heavily in providing safe and appropriate facilities for refugees in the region so they can return to Syria in due course, and we will continue to advocate that approach and encourage our EU partners to put more money into that effort.