I have had a number of conversations with people concerned by the recent images seen in the media of the refugee crisis. It is an issue that cannot be ignored easily. In thinking about the crisis I have tried to imagine what it might be like to be in those people’s situation; forced to make the decision to leave familiar surroundings and possibly elderly or infirm family members behind in order to travel to safety in Europe. The journey, as we have seen, can be fatal for healthy adults yet alone vulnerable adults and children. Conditions are harsh and for the most part the welcome has been less than warm in Europe. The UK has long been a safe haven for those seeking refuge yet in recent years a climate of fear and intolerance has pervaded in politics and the media. For some in our country the answer is to increase border controls and keep those seeking sanctuary out. This would be an inhuman act at the best of times, however, when it was in part British foreign policy that has led to the destabilisation of regions, war and suffering that has caused these people to flee their homes this point of view is simply intolerable.
Many people feel helpless in the face of such vast numbers of people that need help, yet joining together in one voice the people of Britain (and of Europe) can put pressure on local councils and national governments to find solutions that are compassionate, tolerant and understanding of the needs of displaced peoples. There are no magic wands that can be waved to solve the problem and helping refugees to settle into our community will not be easy. Yet should we, as a nation, have the courage to invest time, money and energy into this crisis we will be able to say that we did not stand by idly as people drowned in the sea or suffocated in lorries.
I hope that those reading this letter will feel moved to contact their MPs and councillors and ask that more be done to help those seeking refuge and that each of us in our own way does the small amount that we can to alleviate their suffering.
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