Amna Ahmad: The Tories’ response to the refugee crisis shows they are turning their back on the world
The Lib Dem pledge to house 10,000 Syrian refugees every year reflects Britain’s standing as a “decent” country which doesn’t shirk its responsibilities to those in need, writes Amna Ahmad
My vision for the future is bright – it’s of a Britain that is open, tolerant and united. Yet Britain is being taken down a path by Theresa May and Nigel Farage that is closed, mean-spirited and the opposite of the Britain I know.
One aspect of this is the refugee crisis. A willingness to help those forced to flee their homes, irrespective of what country they are from, is a part of British identity; yet the Tories are turning their back on the world in their response to the global crisis that is less frequently on our TV screens and yet still a very current reality.
Whichever way you voted on 23 June, you may well share with me a feeling of pride that Britain has for so many years been a country that has remained open to those in need of sanctuary, fleeing from horrendous situations abroad and risking their lives for a safer place of refuge.
We have always helped those seeking sanctuary, even at times when we faced domestic challenges and hard times, and we must continue to do so. Recognising others’ need even when we have distractions of our own is part of our identity, or “British values”, and I will not allow Brexit or Nigel Farage to take that away.
Furthermore, at a time when we are seen by many to be turning our back on the rest of to the world, behaving with compassion in the way we relate to those fleeing their homes sends a hugely significant message of unity and understanding to other nations, and we will find it affects our standing in the world for years to come.
But Theresa May has shown that she does not care. Under her government, the Conservatives have U-turned on two previous pledges, including one to take more refugees from Syria and another to help abandoned child refugees.
When Donald Trump announced his travel ban, part of an executive order suspending the US’s entire refugee resettlement programme – the largest in the world – Theresa May refused to criticise it.
In 2015, amid one of the biggest refugee crises the world has ever known, Theresa May gave a speech to her party in which she outlined a new asylum strategy, under which only temporary protection would be given to all but the world’s most vulnerable refugees.
Time and time again she has rejected a Europe-wide approach to solving the refugee crisis and turned her back on cooperation with other countries. It will not serve her well in negotiating anything other than a bad Brexit deal.
The Liberal Democrats will take 10,000 refugees from Syria every year in the next parliament, and we will reopen the Dubs programme for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children stranded in Europe. We want to play our role in this global crisis.
We don’t have to accept the Theresa May-Nigel Farage view of the world and a closed, mean-spirited Britain. The Liberal Democrats will give our children and our country a brighter future – one where we have the choice to be welcoming and decent to each other. Let’s not forget, too, that those who arrive as refugees have a huge amount to give our economy and society, and many are extremely eager to do so.
I’m proud that my party welcomes refugees and accepts its responsibilities. It’s the decent, right and patriotic thing to do. It’s part of the brighter future I hope for.
Amna Ahmad is Lib Dem PPC for Sutton & Cheam and refugee spokesperson