Calais migrant crisis: We should pull our weight to deal with this crisis, Tim Farron tells PM

The Liberal Democrat leader writes a letter to David Cameron asking for him to reconsider EU's proposals for housing migrants

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The Independent Online

Britain must sign up to an EU quota scheme for housing migrants to ease the Calais crisis, Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron has told David Cameron.

In a letter to the Prime Minister posted yesterday, Mr Farron said: “I am writing to ask that you look again at committing the UK Government to the European Union Committee’s draft proposals on relocation of the most vulnerable migrants from Italy and Greece. As you know, only those fleeing the extreme humanitarian crises from the conflict-ridden states of Iraq, Eritrea and Syria are eligible for the programme.”

Mr Cameron exercised a rarely used opt-out over EU asylum policy, which is in draft form, shortly after the general election in May. The policy asks member states to take their fair share of migrants who have been rescued while trying to cross the Mediterranean.

Home Secretary Theresa May argued the scheme would only encourage people to make the dangerous journey, but the European Commission left it open for the UK to opt in within three months of the treaty’s introduction. Describing the Calais situation as “the tip of a humanitarian crisis”, Mr Farron’s letter says: “Opting in to the Commission’s proposal would ensure that the UK plays our full part in helping to deal with the immediate crisis in the Mediterranean and offer our protection to some of the most vulnerable refugees.


“The collective failure of EU member states to deal with the crisis has ... contributed to the devastating situation ... in Calais.”

Mr Farron said yesterday: “We should take our fair share of refugees. Ireland is taking 600, mainly from Eritrea and Syria, over the next two years, so we’re not talking ludicrous numbers.”

Mr Farron accused the Prime Minister of “gunboat diplomacy” in his dealings with the mayor of Calais, Natacha Bouchart, who has demanded £35m compensation from Britain. Ms Bouchart said that the UK’s benefits system was a magnet for migrants trying to cross the Channel.

Mr Farron announced his frontbench team last week. His predecessor, Nick Clegg, refused a role, but Mr Farron said he would try to persuade Mr Clegg to return to the frontline.