Refugees (Family Reunion) (No.2) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 10:43 am on 16th March 2018.

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Photo of David Warburton David Warburton Conservative, Somerton and Frome 10:43 am, 16th March 2018

It is a privilege and a pleasure to follow Angus Brendan MacNeil—[Interruption.] I nailed the pronunciation. I congratulate him on bringing this Bill to the House, and commend him for his moving, persuasive and fascinating speech. I also commend him for building so much support for the Bill. This really is an important debate about an important Bill. The subject is very close to my heart and something about which many of us feel strongly.

Many Members will remember the Dubs amendment to the Immigration Act 2016 that came before the House in April that year. The Dublin regulation said that refugee families had a right to stay together and allowed refugees to join family members who were legally in another country, so that families could be reunited. On the back of that, the Dubs amendment sought to extend that provision to unaccompanied children fleeing war in Syria who were living in the Calais camp at the time and did not have any family here.

I was one of only five Conservative Members to feel sufficiently strongly to support the Dubs amendment and vote against the Government. Just three of us now remain on these Benches, including my hon. Friend Will Quince, who is just leaving the Chamber. The pressure that was exerted at the time was enough to persuade the Government subsequently to accept the provisions. I mention all that because I want to emphasise that I have thought about this policy area carefully. We all need to scrutinise it, particularly as the landscape shifts.

I am pleased that this Bill has come before the House for debate, because it is only by exploring these issues that we will, I hope, come to the right conclusions. As we do so, we need to look carefully at the background of the situation today. When we look at the UK’s reaction to the appalling humanitarian crisis in Syria, we can be rather proud of what is unquestionably an impressive record. Almost £2.5 billion in aid has been committed since 2012. That not only represents our largest ever response to a humanitarian crisis, but means that we are second only to the United States in providing support and far ahead of our European neighbours.

That support has been focused on educating refugees who have found themselves in countries such as Jordan and Lebanon, as well as helping them to find jobs. These are big numbers. Over 500,000 children in Syria have been in education thanks to UK aid, and many tens of thousands are enrolled in schools in surrounding countries. When we think about refugees coming to the UK, let us remember that in 2016—at the height of the crisis in the Calais camps—the UK resettled more refugees from outside Europe than any other EU state. Eurostat figures show that over a third of people resettled in the EU actually came to the UK.

In that process, the most vulnerable refugees have been supported through resettlement programmes, which offer safe and legal routes to protection, and are specifically designed to keep families together. Some 20,000 refugees from Syria will have been settled by 2020, and around half of them have already arrived here. I do not want to list endless figures, but over the past five years, nearly 25,000 family reunion visas have been issued, and some 50,000 people have been given protection status in the UK since 2010.