A number of constituents have contacted me about a vote on 25th April 2016, in Parliament and some misleading newspaper articles that have since appeared.
Last night MPs were asked to vote on whether or not to accept an amendment to a Government Bill by Lord Dubs which called on the Government to accept 3000 Syrian children from refugee camps.
Having asked the Prime Minister directly to do more to help vulnerable refugees (CLICK HERE), the vote on Lord Dub’s amendment was one that I thought about deeply to ensure that I made the best decision to help those most in need.
In the last couple of weeks I have met with the Immigration Minister and the Minister for Refugees to discuss this issue directly. The Government listened to the concerns that I raised and came up with something which helps the same numbers of vulnerable children and their families living in the whole region (MENA) not just in Syria. This ‘children at risk’ scheme has been backed by the UN’s High Commissioner for Refugees and I think is an improvement on the Lord’s Amendment as the most vulnerable will be looked after from the whole of the Middle East. That is the reason that I voted against Lord Dub’s amendment and for the Government’s improved proposals.
The difference between the two is that the Government amendment takes vulnerable people from the region where they face the most extreme dangers and not from European camps where they should be much safer.
I must stress that I am outraged and saddened by the dreadful conditions of some of the camps and that is exactly why I believe that we have a duty to make these camps safe – we must remember that hundreds of thousands of people live there. That is why the government announced last week that more money and resource is going into the camps including 75 expert personnel to help with the processing and administration of migrants in Greece from medical support to experts in supporting vulnerable groups.
We will also supply vital equipment and medical supplies in addition to the existing UK maritime contribution. It is also in addition to the Anti – Slavery Commissioner Kevin Hyland’s role to visit hot spots and assess what more can be done to ensure unaccompanied children are protected from traffickers. Importantly we are supplementing all this with a fund from the Department for International Development who has created a £10 Million Refugee Children Fund specifically to support the needs of vulnerable refugees and migrant children in Europe.
It is crucial that we pressurise our European partners to also live up to their obligations to care for these people and together we offer them a safe haven in Europe. Our government has been doing this and has led the way with aid and resources. Save the Children estimate that there are over 80,000 unaccompanied children living in the camps who are all vulnerable. We can not take all of them, so surely it is best that we use our resources to ensure that they are all safer rather than cherry pick a few for the rest “to suffer”?
It was a very difficult decision to make and I listened hard to the debate. I believe that as an elected representative I should put lives first and although Lord Dubs’ amendment seemed to do the right thing it is important to remember the situation we are dealing with. If implemented it could have actually led to children dying because taking 3,000 children would have sent a message to the traffickers that children are a way in and encouraged more children to make the dangerous journey on boats.
I am a longstanding champion of the needs of refugees and I believe that we do have a moral duty as citizens of the world. So after long consideration, I decided that it is best to take the most vulnerable from the immediate danger of their war torn nations and save their lives, whilst also improving the conditions in and safeguarding the lives of those in the European camps.