In campaigning for the rights of refugees, we show the very best of humanity, and British values.

September 16, 2017 9:39 AM
By Marko Scepanovic, Chair of Crawley Liberal Democrats

The United Nations designated Tuesday 20th June as World Refugee Day, a day where the world commemorates the strength, courage and determination of refugees. Undoubtedly, it's also a day of reflection as we look at the policies of the United Kingdom, and what is done to support refugees.

However, I want to take a step back, and examine not what we've done as a country, but why we do it. Like much in British politics, there is a failure from politicians from all sides to provide reasons why. This reduces the trust between the public and politicians, and the void which facts and explanations are meant to fill is instead replaced with fear mongering, false perceptions and myths from the usual preachers of hate.

Moral arguments in supporting refugees are important, as the people we see struggling could be any of us had history taken a different turn, had we been born into a different family, country or continent. No parent will want to take their child onto a leaky and crowded boat to cross the Mediterranean if they did not believe it is safer on the boat then on land in Syria. The horrific stories of chemical weapons being used by Assad's forces, and the barbaric beheadings, stonings and torture by ISIS all show that there is no alternative but to flee, and how many of us in their shoes can say they would not do the same?

In accepting refugees, we tackle the ideology of ISIS in a way that bombs and soldiers never can. The terrorist organisation relies on dividing society between Muslims and 'the West', and persuading Muslims that only they can provide a safe haven, that 'the West' is the real enemy. When the refugee crisis reached the Continent in late summer of 2015, the opening of our arms and communities to the refugees helped take down that narrative. Europe showed the Muslim communities that they are always welcome here.

Often I hear residents say that countries near Syria ought to take more refugees. Neighbouring Turkey has accepted 2.5 million Syrian refugees, Jordan 1.4 million, Lebanon 2.2 million, Saudi Arabia 500,000 and UAE 250,000. Our ally Germany has accepted around 600,000 and Sweden 110,000. The UK has accepted just over 10,000. We have an international duty to do our bit, and are clearly failing when you look at the numbers.

The UK has a proud history of accepting refugees, most notably during WW2. That proud tradition must continue, as ultimately it is human life at stake.