EU action to address the refugee crisis has been described as “too little, too late” in a damning new report released today by MPs.
The Home Affairs Select Committee has today published the results of a year long Inquiry into the EU and UK’s handling of the refugee crisis.
The Refugee Council submitted evidence to the Inquiry in October 2015 and called for Britain and other European countries to give more refugees safe passage.
It is estimated that in the first six months of 2016, 227,316 people had entered Europe by sea, the majority from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. Appallingly, over 3,000 people have drowned during their attempt to reach safety.
MPs expressed apprehension about the EU – Turkey deal, which aims to contain refugees outside of Europe, saying concerns about the humanitarian, human rights, logistical and legal implications of the deal should not be ignored.
The Committee also called for a small number of lone children currently trapped living in ‘atrocious’ conditions in Calais to be immediately allowed to join their relatives in the UK.
The Committee acknowledged that the UK had been sheltered from much of the refugee crisis, receiving just 3% of all asylum claims made in the EU last year. MPs agreed with the Archbishop of Canterbury that Britain had the capacity to fulfil its moral obligation to accept more refugees fleeing war zones and catastrophes, as well as asylum-seekers.
MPs called for more local authorities to help shelter both refugees and asylum seekers, and called on Ministers to lead the way by encouraging their constituencies to house refugees.
The Committee backed the Refugee Council’s call for the Government to allow more refugees already in Britain to be allowed to reunite with their family members, as well as making the process simpler and providing free legal advice for refugees seeking to bring their loved ones to join them in safety.
However, despite acknowledging that action to close off irregular migration routes could never fully succeed in the absence of ‘sufficient safe and legal routes’, MPs inexplicably called for action to prevent boats from leaving lawless Libya, thus trapping refugees in a dangerous place.
Responding to the report, Refugee Council Head of Advocacy Dr. Lisa Doyle said: “It’s encouraging to hear MPs’ verdict that the UK Government can and should be doing more to help refugees reunite with their loved ones and find safe homes across the country.
“However, given the magnitude of the humanitarian crisis of course this doesn’t go nearly far enough. It’s extremely disappointing that MPs appear to have ignored the fact that the UK’s broader response to the refugee crisis has been to close of families’ escape routes and outsource responsibility for protecting them to other, poorer countries who are ill equipped to do so.
“It’s not good enough to offer a lifeline to one group of refugees while closing off the escape routes of everyone else. All refugees need to be able to reach a place of safety. Until we see a coordinated, comprehensive response to this crisis; men, women and children will continue to lose their lives as they’re forced to take desperate measures to reach safety.”