Home Affairs committee describes EU response to global refugee crisis as 'too little, too late'.

Syrian refugees in Jordan. (c) Oxfam

A report by the UK Home Affairs Committee calls for much more to be done to provide sanctuary to people fleeing conflict in countries like Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq.

The report is a timely reminder that we remain in the midst of the world's worst crisis facing refugees, with more than 65 million people forcibly displaced from their homes, including 21 million refugees seeking sanctuary outside their home country.

Despite this unprecedented volume of displacement and suffering, the UK received just 3% of all claims for protection in the EU last year (around 38,400 people). This is in comparison to Germany's 35% (441,800 people) and Sweden's 12.5% (156,100 people).

While Scotland has been praised for its role in resettling Syrian families through the UK's Syrian resettlement scheme, this represents a tiny proportion of the men, women and children fleeing for their lives from violent persecution and conflict around the world. The report highlights concerns that the UK Government is not currently on track to meet even this, its own target, of resettling 20,000 people from Syria by 2020.

The UK Government is also criticized in the report for providing resettled Syrian families with humanitarian protection for just five years. It warns that providing refuge for limited periods of time in this way may constitute a failure on the government's part to meet its obligations under the 1951 UN Convention on Refugees.

Protecting children

The report describes conditions at refugee camps in Calais as ‘absolutely atrocious’, particularly the situation faced by unaccompanied children desperate to be united with family members in the UK. With many people in the Calais camps entitled to humanitarian and refugee protection, the committee found that 'much more could and should be done to help people' in this appalling limbo.

Providing safe and legal routes to refugee protection is the clearest way to achieving this and the only way to prevent more deaths at sea and in transit to safe countries. One immediate step is for the UK to accelerate its family reunion process for these children trapped in Calais, reunite with their loved ones here in the UK, and let them have their claims for protection processed here. This is moral, lawful and must be a humanitarian priority.

Humanitarian visas and widened family reunion rules are two options that will undermine the desperately unsafe route of people smuggling and prevent suffering and deaths far more effectively than 'Fortress Europe' can ever do.

Gary Christie, Head of Policy at Scottish Refugee Council said:

"The dominant aspect of UK asylum policy for many years has been to create a 'hostile environment' for people seeking safety here. This fits in with the UK Government's narrative that people deliberately target the UK as a place of refuge rather than accepting the reality that people are forced from their homes in a desperate search for safety.  Scottish Refugee Council rejects this notion of 'pull factors', particularly in relation to reuniting children with family members in the UK. Protecting children does not constitute a pull factor but is instead a moral responsibility that weighs on all of us. Today's report clearly shows that the UK is not pulling its weight and much more needs to be done."

Read the report's recommendations.