Aid agencies call on the UK Government to do more to help vulnerable refugees and migrants

The UK Government is turning a blind eye to suffering on its doorstep by failing to protect refugees and migrants, aid agencies said today.

Scottish Refugee Council is one of 13 refugee and aid agencies who say the UK is failing in its responsibility to protect some of the world’s most vulnerable people who have been displaced by conflict, violence, persecution and poverty.

 “The inadequate response from the UK and European governments to the arrival of more than a million men, women and children in Europe in 2015 compounded the suffering and created the worst refugee crisis since World War II,” said Gary Christie, Head of Policy at Scottish Refugee Council.

Next week it will be a year since up to 800 people drowned trying to reach Lampedusa, a tragedy that spurred the EU into holding its first summit on the refugee crisis. But successive summits have done little to improve the situation - the deal struck between the EU and Turkey to deport refugees from Greece is the latest callous attempt to shut the door on desperate people who have already fled their homes and risked a treacherous sea crossing.

Scottish Refugee Council, Oxfam, the British Refugee Council, the International Rescue Committee (IRC-UK) and nine other agencies say it’s not enough for the UK Government to provide aid for refugees in countries like Lebanon and Jordan. The UK has an obligation to offer a safe haven to its fair share of refugees and do all it can to ensure protection for people on the move, whatever their legal status.

Maya Mailer, Oxfam’s Head of Humanitarian Policy said: “The UK is trying to pretend that this is someone else’s problem, and that refugees and migrants could and should be dealt with elsewhere. But people who are desperate will take huge risks to reach safety.

“The UK needs to accept its moral responsibility to offer a safe haven to the world’s poorest and most vulnerable – men, women and children who have been made homeless by war, violence and disasters.”
In the report A Safe Haven?, the agencies lay out the steps the UK needs to take to respond to the global displacement crisis, including: 

  •  Expand the safe and legal routes to reach protection in the UK.
  • Improve the humanitarian response in Europe including humane reception conditions at borders and in transit countries.                
  • Ensure access to a fair, effective and humane asylum system
  • Improve conditions in countries hosting large number  of  displaced people and tackle the causes behind forced displacement.

Melanie Ward, Associate Director of Policy and Advocacy for IRC-UK said: “As chaos continues to unfold in Europe, refugees face inhumane conditions. Thousands are losing their lives and their dignity. In the context of a rapidly growing global refugee crisis, the UK and Europe cannot turn away from protecting refugees on their doorstep.
“There is an urgent need for the UK to live up to its global responsibility by expanding pathways to protection for refugees seeking sanctuary. Without alternatives, thousands are left with no other option but to turn to smugglers and embark on dangerous journeys.”

The 13 aid agencies are: Scottish Refugee Council, Action Aid UK, the British Refugee Council, CAFOD, Christian Aid, Doctors of the World, Freedom from Torture, IRC-UK, Islamic Relief, Oxfam, Plan UK, Refugee Action and World Vision. Read their joint briefing on what the UK should do to deliver on its responsibility to respond to global displacement.

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