Refugees and Human Rights

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:06 pm on 24th January 2018.

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Photo of Alistair Burt Alistair Burt Minister of State (Department for International Development) (Jointly with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office), Minister of State (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) (Joint with the Department for International Development) 2:06 pm, 24th January 2018

I acknowledge the hon. Gentleman’s position, but let me say that we of course support the principle of family unity and have several routes for families to be reunited safely. Our family reunion policy allows a spouse or partner and children under the age of 18 of those granted protection in the UK to join them here if they formed part of the family unit before the sponsor fled their country. Under that policy, we have reunited many refugees with their immediate family and continue to do so. We have, in fact, granted more than 24,000 family reunion visas over the past five years. Family reunification really matters. Of course, colleagues will always argue for more, but that is a substantial figure. I will certainly suggest to colleagues that they look very carefully at the hon. Gentleman’s Bill.

Let me speak about one or two of the crises mentioned by the right hon. Member for Islington South and Finsbury. We have committed £1.3 billion to meet the needs of refugees and host communities in the Syria region, and it is here that we have pioneered a more comprehensive approach to refugee assistance, which includes a refugee compact with the Government of Joran that aims to create 200,000 jobs for refugees.

Of course, resolving the conflict remains the top priority. We are using all our diplomatic tools to call on all parties to protect civilians from harm, to open up humanitarian access and to support UN political talks aimed at ending the conflict. I was in Paris yesterday and met Secretary of State Tillerson in the margins of a meeting to find accountability for those who use chemical weapons in Syria. I met Staffan de Mistura in Geneva just the week before, and of course my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary is doing even more at his level.

Syria is incredibly complex. The recent incursion by Turkey into the north of Syria complicates matters still further, but it is a crisis that can be resolved only by further political talks through the Geneva process. Our approach to Sochi is to say that it has a value only if it directs people towards the Geneva process. That is the determination that we and others have made.

We remain deeply concerned by the Rohingya crisis, where people are still crossing the border every day with stories of unimaginable trauma. This is a major humanitarian crisis created by Burma’s military. There has been ethnic cleansing and those responsible must be held accountable.