Tory MP visits Syrian refugees in Jordan

Huw Merriman SUS-150916-112138001

Huw Merriman SUS-150916-112138001

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MP Huw Merriman will spend a week visiting the Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan with Save the Children .

This comes after the charity wrote to the MP to sign a letter applauding the work of deceased MP Jo Cox, who worked tirelessly for refugees throughout her political career and for Oxfam.

Instead, Mr Merriman felt it would be more meaningful to take the time to visit refugees.

Jordan hosts 630,000 Syrian refugees, and the Za’atari Refugee Camp is the second largest in the world, just 15km from the Syrian border.

The camp has grown to more than five square km in size and is home to almost 80,000 Syrians. Over 56% are children under the age of 18 and the average birth rate is 79 births per week.

Save the Children has been in Jordan since 1985 and provides education ad protection to vulnerable Jordanian children and the children of refugees from neighbours such as Syria

Mr Merriman said, “Throughout my 18 months in Parliament, the situation in Syria, and the plight of refugees, has been a challenge and a moral dilemma. I hope this trip will help me get a better understanding of the following three issues which are uppermost in my mind: should we welcome more refugees to the UK or support the camps in Jordan?

“I have voted with the Government when deciding to take in only refugees from camps in Jordan and elsewhere in the Middle East rather than those who have migrated to Mainland Europe.

“I have done so because I feel it would ultimately be wrong to encourage people to risk drowning in order to come to our shores.

“Mainland Europe initially made a decision to open its borders but many EU countries have declining populations and were happy to host predominantly fit, young, male and educated Syrians.

“The attitude of our neighbours in Europe now seems to have hardened. I have felt it is better to see refugees return to their country and lead a new birth of Syria.

“Time will tell which approach was correct but I am keen to challenge my assumption that it is best to support refugees in camps on the Syrian border or ask myself if the situation in Syria and Jordan is so desperate that we should bring more refugees over to the UK.

“Also should we spend 0.7 per cent of our budget on Foreign Aid?

“Some constituents, along with some of our press, think not. I have always felt we should. There is a challenging world outside our window and it is on the move. The UK may have not taken as many migrants in but, at more than £1 billion, we have spent more on the refugees in the Middle East than the entirety of Europe put together. Better to support those near their own country than see a region lose its young to Europe.

“I am keen to see how our overseas aid is used on the ground, what difference it makes to those it is spent on and if my views on our overseas aid budget remains as positive.

“Is the UK right to provide military force in Syria? I thought long and hard over the vote to sanction military force in Syria but was persuaded it would help tackle ISIS in a consistent manner to that being conducted over neighbouring Iraq; would send a message to the refugees in the camps that Britain would escalate support to get them back home without the need to flee to Europe; and that Russia would take steps to cause regime change in Syria. Whilst the first matter is bearing fruit, the remaining two have yet to make a meaningful impression.

I am keen to see if military involvement over the skies of Syria is helping the refugee situation in Jordan or making it worse.”

Mr Merriman will be posting updates from Jordan on his website www.huwmerriman.org.uk.

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