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Tory concerns over refugee 'pull factors' are 'utter nonsense'

3 min read

Liberal Democrat peer, Baroness Sheehan, says the Government's concerns over "pull factors" - such as funding to improve refugee camps - are "utter nonsense".

I welcome the Government’s decision last week to allow unaccompanied refugee children to come to Britain. However, the horrors these children face mean that we must act with a sense of urgency. Europol estimates that 10,000 of the 95,000 unaccompanied children in Europe have disappeared; 50% of children in an Italian Save the Children respite centre were found to be infected with sexually transmitted diseases acquired in Europe.

Citizens UK have identified 157 children in Calais with family in Britain with whom they could immediately be resettled. In the first instance, the Government must act without delay to help those children and others within Europe with bona fide claims to a safe and legal route to Britain. They must answer the call to resettle at least 300 by the time the school year starts in September.

This refugee crisis is a big crisis – the biggest movement of people since WWII. It needs big people with big thinking to get to grips with it.

Only by European member states coming together and putting their shoulder to the global wheel can a workable solution be found – the problem is not intractable, but it does need leadership with vision, compassion and determination.

However, European leaders, instead of forging ahead with a working scheme have given us paralysis and xenophobia across Europe - with borders going up between Schengen countries – as though that will stop the refugees coming; and a nefarious deal with Turkey, dubious in its legality.

Have they any idea what these people are fleeing? Have they closed their eyes to the smouldering ruins of Aleppo on our screens. Have they not seen the plight of cities such as Madaya and atrocities meted out by Daesh?

Of course they have. And this is what I don’t get. I see these horrific images and immediately understand how powerful are the push factors that force people to flee. But our Government makes much of the “pull factors” - that making conditions in the camps just that little bit more humane will act as a magnet for more to come. Utter nonsense.

Our Government speaks of the pull factors of higher wages and social security benefits. These have remained relatively unchanged over many years, and yet the refugee numbers have swelled dramatically over the period of a few years only and can be shown to be directly related to the conflicts in Syria, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

But until conditions in the Middle East and North Africa improve (and safe areas in the region are established), we need to deal with the humanitarian catastrophe on our immediate doorstep in Calais and Dunkirk, and all the other European Union hotspots.

Having visited Calais and Dunkirk several times, I know the conditions there are atrocious – not a pull factor in sight. Over the winter, the jungle camps in Calais and beyond have been desperately cold, dehumanising and demeaning – but people keep coming, driven by fear and hope. We, as fellow human beings must step up to the plate.

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Read the most recent article written by Baroness Sheehan - When a Covid-19 vaccine is found, equal access must be given to poorer countries


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