Humanitarian Crisis: Greece

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:20 pm on 2nd March 2016.

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Photo of Stuart McDonald Stuart McDonald Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Immigration, Asylum and Border Control) 1:20 pm, 2nd March 2016

I am grateful to the Secretary of State for her answer. We all recognise the important role that the Department for International Development has played in responding to the humanitarian crisis. Sadly, I regret that the same cannot be said of the Home Office, hence my targeting the question at that Department.

Yesterday, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees warned that Europe faces an imminent humanitarian crisis, largely of its own making. As the Secretary of State reported, UNHCR described crowding and shortages of food, shelter, water and sanitation in Greece. I agree with her that, first, we need an emergency aid response, and the £55 million to which she referred is indeed welcome. However, secondly, we need an urgent strategic response from other European states to share responsibility for supporting Greece in processing and hosting arrivals. Does she agree that border closures, tear gas and rubber bullets do not amount to the required strategic response? Is it not obvious, as the UN has pointed out, that Greece cannot manage the situation alone?

Will the Secretary of State please now agree with the UN that it remains vital that the European agreements on relocation are prioritised and implemented? If not, who do the Government think should take on the responsibility? Is it the Government’s position that Greece alone must shoulder it? If she agrees that the challenge of relocation should be shared, how can the UK Government defend not playing their part in that?

Will the Secretary of State also back UN calls for increased regular pathways for the admission of refugees from countries neighbouring Syria? In the light of the unfolding tragedy, will the Government look again at increased resettlement, expanded family reunification, private sponsorship and humanitarian and refugee student and work visas? Surely, in that way, we can reduce dangerous journeys, save lives and support Greece.