The streets of Henley-on-Thames are not well acquainted with protest marches. Talk of boats in the Chiltern region tends to refer to the annual regatta. Yet, today, the town so associated with quiet English conservatism is to stage a rally calling on the Government to do more for the refugees who are often “boat people” of a different ilk. Henley joins a show of solidarity centring on London – where 80,000 marchers are expected – but spreading through the regions, and around the Western world.
Public opinion has shifted in favour of finding ways to accommodate more refugees. David Cameron’s offer – to take in 20,000 Syrians over five years – falls short of an appropriate response, and suspicions remain that the same failure to meet targets that dogged the previous UK plan to resettle 500 refugees will be seen once again.
The furore, as Mr Cameron surely knows, will die down as other issues rise to the top of the political agenda. It is crucial that the public maintains its interest in the fate of those fleeing Syria’s civil war, and the success or otherwise of the programme that aims to bring them to Britain. Pressure forced the Government to do a U-turn in the first place; if it drops, so – one may expect – will the assistance provided.
The Independent’s “Inside the Refugee Crisis” series emphasised that many more asylum-seekers will arrive in Europe in the years to come. The systems to manage the influx humanely are not in place, though the EU has both the space and the resources to accommodate easily far more refugees than it has so far. Some 1.3 million Vietnamese people were absorbed by the West without society breaking down, and, still, refugees currently represent just 0.11 per cent of the EU’s total population.
We encourage our readers to join a march today. But making refugees welcome is a long haul, and the end of the journey remains some way over the horizon.Reuse content