Refugee Crisis

Oral Answers to Questions — Foreign and Commonwealth Office – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 12 July 2016.

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Photo of Michael Tomlinson Michael Tomlinson Conservative, Mid Dorset and North Poole 12:00, 12 July 2016

What discussions he has had with his counterparts in the EU, Africa and the middle east on dealing with the refugee crisis in Europe and the middle east.

Photo of David Lidington David Lidington The Minister for Europe

We have these discussions regularly and our consistent focus is on securing a comprehensive and durable solution which tackles the causes as well as the consequences of migration.

Photo of Michael Tomlinson Michael Tomlinson Conservative, Mid Dorset and North Poole

Will the Minister reaffirm this Government’s commitment to Operation Sophia? Can he confirm that we will continue to co-operate with our European allies in relation to the refugee crisis?

Photo of David Lidington David Lidington The Minister for Europe

I can confirm that. The Prime Minister said shortly after the referendum that we would continue our contribution to Sophia, which has already saved more than 16,400 lives and has destroyed more than 160 smuggling vessels.

Photo of Barry Sheerman Barry Sheerman Labour/Co-operative, Huddersfield

Is the Minister in close contact with the leading aid agencies—the International Rescue Committee, Save the Children and Médecins sans Frontières? They seem to have a different take from Governments on what is happening in camps and with movements. Is he keeping in touch with them?

Photo of David Lidington David Lidington The Minister for Europe

My colleagues in the Department for International Development are in constant touch with the main aid agencies, and our very large humanitarian effort in Turkey, Syria itself and the neighbouring countries, Lebanon and Jordan, is very much focused through the UN, the International Committee of the Red Cross and other such agencies.

Photo of Peter Aldous Peter Aldous Conservative, Waveney

In view of the fact that the appalling hardships and loss of life arising from the refugee crisis in the Mediterranean are clearly long term and in danger of becoming institutionalised, will my right hon. Friend give consideration to the proposal from the International Chamber of Shipping, originally put forward last autumn, to establish a UN humanitarian zone covering the affected areas?

Photo of David Lidington David Lidington The Minister for Europe

Although the International Chamber of Shipping proposal was indeed constructive, I do not want to underestimate the difficulties of getting agreement in the Security Council on anything through the UN. We have Operation Sophia, which is working and to which many European countries are actively contributing, and we should aim to make that work still more effective, help the Libyans build up the capacity of their own coastguard, and use the instruments available.

Photo of Lisa Cameron Lisa Cameron Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Climate Justice)

Does the Minister accept that in respect of the Brexit negotiations, much work will require to be done to secure joint EU-UK efforts in northern Africa on tackling the escalating refugee crisis?

Photo of David Lidington David Lidington The Minister for Europe

So long as we remain members of the European Union and afterwards, it will remain in the interests of this country that we work very closely with our European friends and allies. This is a problem that will be with us for a generation and it will need concerted international co-operation.