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Turkey-Greece Border: Refugees

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:32 pm on 10th March 2020.

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Photo of Emily Thornberry Emily Thornberry Shadow Foreign Secretary 12:32 pm, 10th March 2020

Thank you, Mr Speaker, for granting this urgent question, and I also thank Joanna Cherry for securing it. As she has rightly said, the behaviour of both Greece and Turkey towards the refugees stuck on their mutual border is utterly shameful—Turkey for wilfully putting them in that impossible position in the first place, knowing that there is nowhere for them to go; and Greece for its unacceptable, heavy-handed response, including the use of tear gas and water cannon, even against people in flimsy dinghies in treacherous conditions.

Much as the self-interested sympathies of Germany and other neighbouring EU countries may lie with the Greek Government, there is no right or wrong in this crisis. Turkey is using the threat of a refugee crisis as leverage to scare up EU and NATO support for its disastrous intervention in Idlib, and Greece is ignoring its obligations under the refugee and human rights conventions by responding with such brutality. Both are equally in the wrong and should stand equally condemned, both legally and morally. The question is: where do we go from here? While there are no easy answers, there are, as ever, two starting points.

First, is the welfare of unaccompanied children and adolescents at severe risk of exploitation, neglect and abuse? Can the Minister give us his estimate of how many children and adolescents are affected? He has been asked this question several times by several Members, so I will ask again: will the UK be joining Finland, France, Germany, Luxembourg and Portugal in offering these children help?

Secondly—again, as always—we must address this crisis at source and stem the increasing outflow of refugees from Idlib. We therefore urgently need an internationally agreed political solution to end the war in Syria, with the safe and peaceful resettlement of refugees at its heart. May I therefore ask the Minister, in closing, what action is currently being taken towards that end?