UK's efforts in resettling 20,000 refugees 'woeful'

UK's efforts in resettling 20,000 refugees 'woeful'
British MPs have slammed the UK's handling of Europe's refugee crisis, saying that government promises of taking in a modest number of Syrians are still way off track.
3 min read
03 August, 2016
Dozens of children remain estranged from their UK-based families in Calais [AFP]
The UK's handling of Europe's refugee crisis has been woeful, according to a report released by British MPs.

Modest UK pledges that it would accept 20,000 refugees by 2020 also appear to be way off track, the Home Affairs select committee said in the report.

"Europe's efforts to address this colossal refugee crisis have been lamentable," said MP Keith Vaz, chair of the year-long study.

The investigation concluded that Europe did not respond sufficiently to the evidence that a refugee crisis was imminent.

But it was the UK's response to the crisis which brought the strongest criticism.

Woeful promises from the UK to accept only 20,000 refugees - a fraction of the EU total - have done little to ease the crisis.

This pledge only came about after a public outcry following the death of three-year-old Syrian boy Alan Kurdi.

So far, 8 out of 10 UK councils have not accepted a single refugee, while Scotland has been forced to pick up the slack and accept 40 percent of the total.

Since the announcement that the UK would resettle more refugees, only 1,602 had been given homes in the country and more than 600 of these were in Scotland.

"Focus on this issue is vital if the target of 20,000 is ever to be met, which the current figures show to be unlikely," said Vaz.

"Cabinet ministers should show leadership in encouraging their own local authorities to take their fair share of Syrian refugees."

NGOs working to deal with the crisis say they are deeply concerned with the UK's shortcomings.
Millions of people are in desperate need of help and protection.
- Maya Mailer, Oxfam
"It's deeply disappointing that the UK government is not on track to meet even its modest commitment to resettle 20,000 Syrians by 2020," said Maya Mailer, Oxfam's head of Humanitarian Policy.

"The violence that is forcing people to leave their homes and seek safety continues in Syria and elsewhere around the world. Millions of people are in desperate need of help and protection."

She said that it was necessary that the UK steps up its efforts to meet its initial target. London should also go further to help some of the most vulnerable among the millions of refugees caused by wars in Syria and Iraq.

"The government must not only deliver on its existing commitments to resettle the most vulnerable Syrian refugees but also welcome to the UK more people fleeing conflict, including making it easier for families, split apart by violence, to reunite."

The committee said that the UK's refusal to accept children from the makeshift refugee camps in Calais was also of concern.

Andy Burnham, shadow home secretary, said there are no signs the situation will improve under new Prime Minister Theresa May.

"The government is failing to keep its promise to take in refugees and yet the new prime minister has abolished the dedicated minister for this issue. She must reinstate it without delay and ensure her government honours the pledge."

Sadly, the price of political inaction falls heaviest on the most vulnerable and at risk.