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Comment: UK has ‘moral responsibility’ to act now on refugee crisis

By Dr James Hampshire, Sussex Centre for Migration Research at the University of Sussex

The Syrian civil war has forced at least 9 million people to flee their homes. Most of them have been internally displaced or sought refuge in neighbouring countries such as Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan.

Lebanon, a country of 4 million people, has received over 1 million Syrian refugees.

That’s the equivalent of the UK taking 16 million people.

In fact, we’ve accepted just over 200 Syrian refugees for resettlement.

Rather than offering to take people in, the main response of many European governments has been to make it harder for refugees to reach Europe.

But increasing boat patrols in the Mediterranean or building border-fences, as the Hungarian government is doing, will simply displace movements and contribute to further loss of life.

With few legal routes to asylum, refugees are taking increasingly desperate measures to reach safety, as yesterday’s horrific images of a drowned Syrian boy remind us all.

Yet European leaders are squabbling over who should take responsibility for those who reach Europe alive.

David Cameron claims that the only solution to the crisis is peace and stability in the Middle East. He may be right about that, but he is totally wrong to use it as an excuse to refuse taking more refugees.

Peace is not coming to Syria anytime soon and the UK and other European countries have a moral responsibility to act now.

In just under two weeks, European ministers will meet to discuss how to respond to the crisis.

Cameron can choose an isolationist approach and refuse to offer more refugee places, or he can live up to the UK’s tradition of humanitarian protection and support a policy in which the UK takes its fair share of people.

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By: James Hakner
Last updated: Thursday, 3 September 2015

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