Let us be clear from the start: through our opt-out on home affairs and justice, Britain would not be required to take part in any asylum relocation system, nor would we be required to pay any financial levy to avoid it. Let us also be clear, however, that we have a keen national interest and a moral responsibility to ensure that effective systems are in place to tackle the worst humanitarian crisis in Europe in a decade. A humanitarian crisis on this scale clearly needs a concerted EU-wide response.
It is clear that the Dublin arrangements are not working on the ground. They are not able to cope with the numbers or process the claims. For those precise reasons, Labour has been calling for many months for a reconsideration of how the Dublin arrangements work in practice. The Government, as ever, have been slow and reluctant to act, as characterised by the Minister’s involuntary appearance here today.
Labour is also clear that the key Dublin principles preventing first country states from refusing to process asylum seekers and allowing return to first country are important. We welcome the Government’s update on that, but what reform proposals have they made to the Commission?
There is also the wider and key question of unaccompanied children in Europe. Today the chair of the Association of Jewish Refugees called on the Prime Minister to do more to help what he called “the most vulnerable victims” of the Syrian conflict. We cannot continue to sit on our hands or to be subject to the repugnant rhetoric that these children in Europe are safe—they are not. There is a groundswell of support. When will the Government finally listen? If there is to be a U-turn, the sooner it happens, the better.