A Facebook friend shared some horrific pictures this week. Normally I don’t agree with sharing upsetting photos but on this occasion I think it was the right thing to do. The photos were of dead children, washed up on a beach in the Mediterranean. A baby in a nappy, a little girl in a polka dot dress, a young boy in a red t-shirt and sports trainers. There were many others.
This situation has nothing to do with the ‘immigration crisis’ stirred up by xenophobic political parties, tabloid journalism and scare mongering about UK citizens losing their jobs or housing because of an influx of people from other countries. I do not agree with this attitude towards migrants, but I hope even those that do can see that the Syrian refugee crisis is something quite different.
The situation in Syria is one of civil war. Human rights violations, massacres, chemical weapons, torture. People are trying to escape to save their own lives and the lives of their children. Germany has just changed its migration policy in response to the crisis. Under EU rules any refugees reaching Germany need to be deported back to the country they first arrived at when fleeing Syria. Here they would remain trapped in appalling conditions until their asylum claims were processed. The Greek and Italian reception centres are overwhelmed and conditions are unsanitary and lacking sufficient food and healthcare. Thanks to the German change of policy refugees can now stay in Germany to apply for asylum, thus saving them from the squalid camps in Greece or Italy and easing conditions for the other refugees. The EU need to decide how to fairly distribute responsibility for the Syrian refugee crisis, at the moment under the current EU policy the responsibility has fallen on two countries that are simply overwhelmed. In the last year 809 refugees were resettled in the UK through the Government’s Syrian Vulnerable Person’s Relocation scheme. The total number of Syrian refugees is 4.1 million. Surely as a country we can help more than that? In 2014 alone Germany committed to resettling 20,000 refugees. Green Party members in Stroud have worked out that their ‘fair share’ of refugees in Stroud would equate to ten people (or three families). Even with the 40,000 refugees that the EU need to resettle over the next two years that is all it equates to if all EU member states pull together. So what do you say people of Eastbourne? The frightening figures of refugees needing help equate to a handful of families resettling in our town. Can we cope? Of course we can, and more than that we should make them welcome and support them in any way we can. If you are still unconvinced have a look at the images on my Facebook page www.facebook.com/ethicallifestyle then hug your own children tightly and be grateful for every moment with them. As always, sign petitions, write to your MP and donate what you can. We can make a difference.