Wednesday, 23 June 2021

"Doors should be open to refugees"

BRITAIN should be accepting many more refugees, according to a group of Henley campaigners

BRITAIN should be accepting many more refugees, according to a group of Henley campaigners.

They lobbied John Howell over the Government’s pledge that Britain will accept 20,000 refugees from Syria over five years, saying it is not nearly enough.

Ten members of the group, which is led by former immigration barrister Nicola Scannell, presented their case to the Henley MP at his weekly surgery at Henley town hall.

Mrs Scannell, 43, from Northend, said: “The basic message we put to Mr Howell was that the UK needs to be doing more to offer sanctuary to more refugees from Syria than it is currently committed to doing.

“The current commitment is 20,000 refugees over five years. These will be selected from refugee camps in the Middle East. While that is a good start, it is only the tip of the iceberg.

“There is a massive influx into the Mediterrean every month. In December more than 100,000 refugees arrived by sea in Greece and other Mediterranean countries. Small islands in Greece like Lesbos are receiving more than 4,000 refugees a week. The UK is committed to taking 4,000 refugees a month.

“Those arriving are not permitted to bring any personal belongings other than the clothes they are wearing. Thirty-one per cent of those arriving are children, many of them unaccompanied. The Government should commit to taking more children.

“The UK hides behind legislation to ensure that anyone reaching the UK who passes through Europe is sent back to other European countries.

“The document we presented asked that this legislation be suspended and for more refugees to be admitted into the UK. We need to be supporting countries like Greece which can ill afford to have thousands of refugees arriving daily.

“The refugee crisis is the humanitarian crisis of our time. The people leaving Syria are for a large part well educated and many speak English. They could form a useful part of UK society.”

More than four million people have fled Syria since civil war broke out in 2011, with many leaving after terror group ISIS began incursions into the country last year. So far Britain has granted asylum to just over 5,100 Syrians as well as giving £920million towards aid efforts.

Mrs Scannell, who now works as an interior designer, said: “There are 4.6 million refugees coming out of Syria alone and the UK is taking 20,000. It does not come close to being proportional.

“The Government expects the countries that border the Mediterranean, like Greece, Italy and Turkey, to receive them all.

“They hide behind the Dublin convention, which allows them to send refugees back to the country they first entered. That is an abdication of responsibility.”

Mr Howell said: “I do not think the Government is hiding behind any conventions, it is following international law and precedent.

“The idea is to deal with refugee camps in the Middle East and around Syria that are particularly destabilised. The 20,000 was an initial response and we are keeping that under review.

“The Government has agreed to take unaccompanied children, which is going to be difficult. You can’t just take people and put them anywhere.

“They need to be in an area with facilities, including medical facilities, and a network of support.”

Mr Howell said the meeting with the activists was convivial, adding: “I said I would pass back their concerns to Westminister, which I will do.”

• A meeting will be held at King’s Arms Barn in Henley on February 29 from 7pm to 9.30pm for anyone interested in exploring what can be done locally for refugees from Syria.

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