It should not have taken the sight of a dead child for the British Government to improve its offer to Syrian refugees. Consider the humanity of all three million people who have fled that country thus far, forced out by the barrel bombs of President Assad on the one hand and the apocalyptic savagery of Isis on the other.
But a single image can carry more weight than the starkest statistics, and so it has proved. The public clamour that followed the publication of pictures of Aylan al-Kurdi, the three-year-old boy found lying face-down on a Turkish beach, has forced David Cameron into a face-saving U-turn. He announced yesterday that Britain will now take in “thousands more” Syrian refugees.
So much the better. Yet we have no indication if that means 2,000 or 20,000. If the reversal is to amount to more than a deflection of bad press, 10,000 ought to be a minimum. And questions remain over the practicalities. The UK will persist, it appears, in operating unilaterally in bringing Syrians across from refugee camps in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey. The existing scheme has proved both slow and complicated, and is partly to blame for Britain’s failure to bring in even the paltry 500 refugees it promised years ago. And such action does nothing to address the plight of those in dire need already within Europe’s borders.
It would make more difference if Britain were to add its weight to the move for a refugee quota across Europe. As The Independent reports, the European Commission is expected to call for 120,000 asylum-seekers to be shared around member states – relocating Syrians, Eritreans and Iraqis who have already made it into Europe. Now that Mr Cameron has shown willingness to act, he should opt into the scheme, and win favour in Brussels while he is at it.
Piecemeal action by member states has brought Europe to this point. More of the same will not relieve the pressure.Reuse content