Politicians decide future of vulnerable refugees

Father and son in Homs, Syria (Photo: UNHCR/B Diab)

EU Ministers today met for urgent talks on the refugee crisis as European states announce new border control measures and the Scottish Parliament prepares to debate the global refugee crisis tomorrow.

The UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, has called for a comprehensive European response to the humanitarian crisis continuing to unfold in Europe, stressing that outcomes from the ministerial discussions today have become ‘critical’. In a press release last night it said urgency was required in the bid for cooperation at EU level.

The agency called on member states to develop reception centres for refugees arriving in Europe, and for effective processes to assist, register and screen new arrivals properly. It reiterated calls for the implementation of a relocation programme proposed by the European Commission last week, in which Scottish Refugee Council and the Scottish Government, among others, have called for the UK to play its full part.

The signs are deeply worrying

Early signals of possible outcomes from the discussions this morning, however, suggest that rather than committing to urgent action, member states’ representatives may in fact be locked in a negotiation to the bottom and the Commission’s proposals could end up being watered down.

Before today's meeting however Home Secretary Theresa May said, worryingly, that the UK would not take part in the proposed EU relocation scheme for 160,000 refugees. It has been reported that there are plans mooted to set up 'internment camps' for asylum seekers outside EU borders to which they could be returned.

In Scotland, the Scottish Government’s taskforce set up in response to calls to action from the public, civil society and politicians, holds its second meeting on Tuesday morning with among others, representatives from Scottish Refugee Council, Refugee Women’s Strategy Group, local authorities, and the NHS.

Holyrood debate on crisis

In the afternoon, a Scottish Government debate on the global refugee crisis will be held in Parliament. MSPs are expected to call for the UK to take further action in response to the crisis, welcoming the Prime Minister’s commitment to continued aid funding in and around Syria and to resettle up to 20,000 Syrians over the next five years through existing programmes, but calling urgently for it to do more, including for those refugees already in Europe.

We welcome the leadership that the First Minister, politicians across the UK and the public have shown in offering to welcome refugees. This was powerfully highlighted by the vigils held in cities and towns across the country at the weekend.

This humanitarian crisis requires a coordinated Europe-wide response that is not about closing borders, which will only exacerbate the crisis, but about opening up routes to safety and protection for men, women and children who are the victims of war and persecution. We cannot allow these people to become the victims of a further, political, crisis.

Our representatives in Scotland can and should be adding their voices to the public and political pressure telling the UK Government loud and clear that it must do more and that it must push for a coordinated humanitarian response at a European level.

Email your MSP to urge them to speak out for refugees at tomorrow's Holyrood debate or email your MP to ask the UK Government to do more to help refugees in dire need