Thursday, April 28, 2016

If we take more Syran refugees, we should take those most in need from the Middle East.

The whose question of how to deal with refugees from the ghastly war in Syria is a complex one, which reminds me of the saying,

"to every difficult problem there is an answer which is simple, clear cut, and completely wrong."

I know there are people - I've met them on the doorstep - who don't want Britain to take a single refugee.

I don't believe that is the majority view - it certainly wasn't for a few weeks after the media had been full of horrible pictures of a dead child washed up on a beach -  but it certainly is the majority view that Britain cannot take everyone who wants to come here.

If your position is somewhere between the simple and clear cut positions of let everyone in or don't let anyone in, you are faced with agonising choices. How many people is our "fair share," who should they be, and who decides.

I actually think the government has got this one absolutely right in that

1) Britain has been more generous than almost anyone else in the aid we give to people in refugee camps in the area from which hopefully they will be able to go home when the fighting is over, and

2) Where we do take refugees, we take them directly from those in the Middle East based on an assessment of need, and not from those who have already reached Europe.

I think they were right to apply that to the 20,000 refugees that the government first said Britain would take. And I think they were right to apply it when they said that Britain would take 3,000 children.

I respect those who support the "Dubs Amendment" which has been backed by the House of Lords to take another 3,000 from Europe but I think they are absolutely wrong. If they want to take more, we should take them from the refugee camps and not from those who have already reached European countries.

There is no simple and perfect answer to this. Some unaccompanied children who have reached  European countries may be at risk from people-traffickers and paedophiles. But the same is true of some orphans of children separated from their parents in the Middle East.

And if we take unaccompanied children from, say, "the jungle" in France we risk giving an perverse incentive to desperate families in the middle east to pay the people smugglers to get their children to France - a journey on which some of them will die.

If, however, people know that Britain only takes refugees directly from the Middle East, we are reducing the incentive for people to risk their lives, or their children's lives, to the people-traffickers.

Mark Wallace makes the same point on Conservative Home here.

We can argue about how many people Britain should take until the cows come home and there is no right answer. But there is a right answer to where we should take the ones we do take from, and it is directly from the Middle East. That is a policy which will save lives, while the opposite policy, however well intentioned, will cause more deaths.

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