Let them in: Britain has a moral duty to help Syria’s refugees

It doesn’t take an excess of charitable feeling to recognise this is an exceptional case

Related Topics

It is a measure of how toxic the immigration debate has become in Britain that the Government seems determined to turn down a UN request for us to take in a share of 10,000 refugees who have fled the civil war in Syria.

No doubt spooked by the prospect of adverse headlines about another foreign “influx” at a time when debate rages over how many Romanians and Bulgarians may arrive in 2014, Britain is not joining the US, France and Germany in accepting a proportion of those Syrians who are displaced.

It is understandable that ministers feel embarrassed by the Government’s failure to live up to its pledge to get immigration down to tens of thousands a year. There is also no doubt that the popularity of calls to curb immigration weighs on their minds, especially as an election approaches. But the Government should think again, and not just because it is Christmas.

It doesn’t take an excess of charitable feeling to recognise that Syria is an exceptional case. A devastating civil war over the past three years has torn apart this large and populous country, leaving millions of people with no option but to run for their lives. An unusually harsh winter is exacerbating their plight. Starvation looms on a catastrophic scale.

Read more:

'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'

'I hope for a better world': Pope Francis calls for peace for Syria and dignity for refugees fleeing misery and conflict in Christmas Day speech  

Instead of running scared over the prospect of a few thousand unanticipated newcomers, the Government should freely admit that letting in some Syrian refugees will skew its targets on immigration, while appealing to most Britons’ instinctive generosity to understand why our doors should be open to them. 

As only 0.1 per cent of Syrians fleeing the conflict have come to Britain so far, we are hardly being asked to assume an unfair share of the burden. It is worth recalling that even if the UN wanted us to take in all 10,000 – which is not the case – this would still be only a fraction of the 2.4 million Syrians who are already refugees in Lebanon, Jordan and elsewhere.

The shadow Home Secretary, Yvette Cooper, says we have a duty to be more open-hearted. She is right. We should adopt a more generous and welcoming attitude to these people.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Mosul falls: Talk of Iraq retaking the town, held by IS since June, is unconvincing  

Isis on the run? The US portrayal is very far from the truth

Patrick Cockburn

General Election 2015: You’re welcome to join us on the campaign's final straight

Lisa Markwell
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk