The refugee crisis has been increasingly dominating the news over recent weeks. People across the UK are expressing their concern and empathy in extraordinary ways.
I have already been taking what action I can, both in relation to pushing the UK Government to take more responsibility and in pushing for more action at an EU level.
What we are witnessing is an international humanitarian crisis. Europe urgently needs to agree a cohesive plan to manage the reception and redistribution of migrants arriving both through the Mediterranean and now increasingly across land borders.
The EU must do what it was brought into existence to do - show solidarity between members, and show the rest of the world that the EU is a union of values - that it is capable of managing a migration policy with fair rules, compassion, and the rule of law. Ahead of the emergency migration summit on September 14, it is crucial that the UK shows international solidarity and opts-in to key measures to help refugees coming to Europe.
I have raised this matter several times in committee meetings over the last few days, including in the Budget Committee last week in advance of our negotiations with Member States' governments over the amount of money that is available to react to this crisis. My Labour colleagues, and colleagues more widely from other countries, here in the European Parliament are joining me in arguing that much more EU money needs to be spent on this humanitarian crisis in terms of rescue operations and relocation and support within the EU when refugees arrive.
Today the European Parliament voted on proposals made by the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs committee calling for the equitable distribution of refugees across the European Union. Labour MEPs have been pushing for a critical upgrade of the EU’s response. Particularly in relation to reception conditions and responsibility sharing of refugees between member states and tackling people smugglers.
The EU’s new refugee action plan pledges the relocation of 120,000 asylum seekers from Greece, Italy and Hungary. Germany, France and Spain will take 60 per cent of these. As the UK has an opt-out in justice and home affairs policy, it is not obligated to take any asylum seekers under this plan. It is worth noting, however, that Ireland also has this opt-out and has agreed to resettle 610 Syrians.
I believe that the British people want our Government to do much more than has so far been announced by Mr Cameron. The UK has only resettled 216 people (as at the end of June 2015) under the 'Syrian Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme', which was set up in January 2014. This scheme requires the highest level of bureaucracy and proven lengthy waiting times for refugees.
France has resettled 1,000 Syrians and Germany 20,000 and the United States has agreed to an open-ended resettlement programme and has referred 16,286 cases for consideration (as at 18 August 2015).
Please rest assured I am doing all I can to push the UK Government, and the EU more widely, to do something now to help the refugees fleeing to Europe. I urge you to write to your MP or direct to David Cameron to call for him to respond to this crisis with some humanity.