The situation for Syria's refugees is desperate. Our Government must now sign up to the UN's resettlement plan

Why are ministers so resistant to provide this limited help?

Share
Related Topics

As the Syrian conflict becomes ever more desperate, vulnerable refugees need our help. The Independent has rightly championed the UN’s humanitarian programme to resettle those too vulnerable to survive or cope in camps. But the British Government’s refusal to sign up is wrong. And ministers’ objections look increasingly thin. They should rethink before next week’s Parliamentary vote.

Already over 2m refugees have fled their country – over half of them children. The devastation and human tragedy is dire. Most of the help is rightly being provided in the region – and Britain has shown welcome leadership by providing £600m of aid.

But the UN has also asked for help to resettle a limited number of very vulnerable refugees - abandoned children who have no protection, torture victims suffering immense physical and mental distress, people needing medical help, mothers of young children who have lost husbands and other relatives or who may have been abused. And that’s where the British Government’s refusal is so disappointing.

Eighteen other countries have agreed to help – including our European neighbours, Australia, Canada, and the USA – taking the UN well on their way towards their target. So why are ministers so resistant to provide this limited help?

First Home Office ministers and the Conservative Party chair argued that the UN programme was “tokenistic.” But that’s clearly nonsense. Of course, only a minority of refugees will be helped because only a minority need this support. And it certainly won’t feel tokenistic to a desperate child given a home.

Then the Deputy Prime Minister suggested Britain was doing its bit by giving asylum instead. But asylum seekers have to get here and most of these vulnerable refugees can’t travel alone.

Both the Home Office and the Prime Minister have said they are providing support in the region instead. But it shouldn’t be an either-or. Countries should do both. Britain’s aid is vital – but while most people need support in the camps, some struggle to cope. And it’s really important that Theresa May doesn’t resist every refugee programme, however small, because of the Home Office net migration target which wrongly includes refugees within it. This isn’t about border control, or immigration policy, it’s about sanctuary for those fleeing persecution.

On Wednesday, under pressure, the Prime Minister said he would look at the issue of people who don’t belong in camps. Then why not sign up to the UN programme? That will help them and encourage other countries to do more too. It’s harder to ask Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon to keep their borders open, and help millions of people, if Britain refuses to take in a few hundred of those in greatest need.

Labour will call a vote in Parliament next week on joining the UN programme, but this issue has always had strong cross-party support. All party leaders agree we have a moral obligation to help those suffering in the Syrian conflict. That’s why I urge the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary to change their minds now and act.

Yvette Cooper is the shadow Home Secretary

Read more:
Syrian crisis: Peers put Cameron under pressure to 'heed the call' and take in refugees
Dear Prime Minister: Full text of peers' letter to David Cameron regarding the Syrian refugee crisis
Editorial: Let them in - Britain has a moral duty to help Syria's refugees
'No room at the inn': Britain condemned for turning its back on Syria's refugees
Syria in crisis: Country's healthcare system is 'going backwards in time, at a rate of a decade a month'
 

 

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Associate Recrutiment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: SThree Group have been well ...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: Real Staffing Group is seeking Traine...

Year 6 Teacher (interventions)

£120 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: We have an exciting opportunity...

PMLD Teacher

Competitive: Randstad Education Manchester: SEN Teacher urgently required for ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Letter from the Political Editor: Cameron's unexpected tax pledges give the Tories home advantage

Andrew Grice
President Barack Obama walks with U.S. Secret Service agents to Air Force One at Los Angeles International Airport in Los Angeles, Calif., May 8, 2014.  

Obama's Secret Service has become sloppy with its delusions of Hollywood grandeur

David Usborne
Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
Time to stop running: At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity

Time to stop running

At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

An app for the amorous

Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

She's having a laugh

Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

Let there be light

Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

A look to the future

It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
The 10 best bedspreads

The 10 best bedspreads

Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

Arsenal vs Galatasaray

Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence