UK Government urged to do the right thing at critical summit

With Refugees Sauchiehall Stairs 17 September 2016
Image courtesy of Oxfam Scotland

This week sees the coming together of world leaders to discuss a make-or-break collective response to the international refugee crisis.

The UN Summit for Refugees and Migrants today (19 September) will be attended by heads of state and government, ministers, and leaders from the UN, civil society, private sector, international organisations, academia and more.  Tomorrow President Obama will host a Leaders’ Summit on the Global Refugee Crisis to broker significant new global commitments to the world’s displaced.

This is a clear opportunity to show that the UK is committed on the global stage to leading the international effort to solve the refugee crisis.  Over recent years, many men, women and especially children have been forced to flee their homes, in unprecedented numbers since World War 2, from war, conflict, persecution and torture.

The international response has been inadequate, and a failure to enact practical, humane solutions such as safe routes through Europe and enabling family reunion has contributed to the deaths of many at sea and the currently horrendous conditions many refugees including children are experiencing in Calais.

Funding of international humanitarian organisations has been piecemeal as has support to the countries hosting the majority of the world’s refugees.

A year ago, the world was shocked by the tragic death of Alan Kurdi, the three-year-old child who drowned on Europe's doorstep during his family’s desperate flight from war-torn Syria.

 A hundred thousand people from all walks of life marched through London sending a clear message: that the UK must not stand by while children drown in Europe's seas.

This weekend, from Glasgow to London, people met and marched again to show their support for refugees. In Glasgow, charities met to place a series of abandoned shoes on the steps of the city’s Buchanan Street, to represent those who lost their lives trying to reach safety, while a colourful Good Food, Good Mood BBQ took place to welcome refugees in Scotland.

The solidarity shown by the ordinary people of Scotland and the UK has to be matched by our political leaders. With political will, this crisis can be managed humanely. We, alongside other partner organisations, have called upon the Prime Minister Theresa May and the UK Government to adopt three commitments during talks at this week’s summits:

  • Take a leading role in developing a humane, coordinated international response to the millions fleeing crisis;
  • Offer safe passage to the UK to more refugees, for example through removing obstacles to family reunification and extending our commitment to resettlement beyond the 20,000 agreed by the previous Prime Minister, David Cameron;
  • Commit to better supporting refugees who reach the UK to rebuild their lives here so they can play a full role in their communities.
We have also urged the Prime Minister and other leaders to avoid making false distinctions between refugees. Portraying those who stay in refugee camps in the Middle East as being somehow more worthy of help and safety than those who arrive on our shores in search of safety for themselves and their families is wrong. Both need protection.

Sadly, according to reports the Prime Minister will use her speech at the summit today to call on limits to refugee movement’s and focus on border controls furthering pushing responsibility to host refugees on a small number of poor countries.

Gary Christie, Head of Policy, Scottish Refugee Council:

“Throughout history, the UK has offered safety to those fleeing their countries but never before has the need been more urgent. Nor has the need for global solidarity and immediate action to end the humanitarian crisis facing refugees. We call on the UK Government to do the right thing today and lead by example.”