Is the UK government doing enough to help refugees?

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Tyler Gerrard, 27 June 2017

The global refugee crisis is simply too big for any government to ignore with there being an estimated 21.3 million refugees worldwide and an estimated 33,972 people a day forced to flee their homes because of conflict and persecution. 53% of refugees worldwide come from Somalia, Afghanistan and Syria, with the largest number coming from Syria.

The UK government’s response to the crisis has been widely criticised for being inadequate, with a group of 50 leading refugee charities and aid agencies describing it as ‘not enough-not even close’. This may not be completely fair though as the government has pledged £2.3 billion in humanitarian aid to Syria and neighbouring countries, as well as providing nearly £70 million in response to the Mediterranean migrant crisis. Furthermore, back in 2015 David Cameron promised to resettle 23,000 refugees by 2020, albeit critics would argue this figure is still far too low.

And while Germany puts the UK to shame in terms of the number of refugees that it has taken in with around 1.1 million refugees arriving in Germany in 2015, a cynical perspective would look at Germany’s rapidly ageing population and lack of young workers meaning that it requires refugees for economic reasons. It is also important to note the lack of contribution from Eastern European countries such as Hungary, Poland and Czech Republic who have closed their borders and refused to take in refugees.

But take the example of Sweden, a country that has recently taken in the highest number of refugees in Europe per capita, despite having a population that isn’t in decline. The Swedish government has historically been very accommodating in terms of taking in refugees and so perhaps it could be argued that the Swedish government is simply more moral than the UK government. The example of Sweden suggests that the UK can and should be doing more.

Furthermore, the public as a whole are very much in favour of helping refugees and this can be seen by the marches that have taken place, attended by thousands of people. Indeed, in 2016 Amnesty International ranked the UK public amongst the most welcoming in the world to refugees. According to Amnesty, 87 per cent of people said they would welcome refugees in to their country and the British are the second-most willing worldwide to let refugees in to their homes at 29 per cent.

Clearly then the government isn’t reflecting the values and wishes of the British people and crucially the Amnesty International survey also showed that around 70 per cent of the public feel that the government should be doing more to help refugees. This sentiment is backed up by the fact that the government scrapped the Dubs amendment in February, which was a law designed by Lord Dubs that required the UK to take in 3,000 unaccompanied child refugees. The actual number of child refugees that were taken in under the scheme was only 350 and this represents a shocking failure by the government to help vulnerable children, in desperate need of help.

At the moment it appears that the UK government is doing the minimum amount possible to help refugees. Yes, it may be doing much more than some countries in Europe, but at the same time countries like Sweden are putting it to shame. The government has a moral duty to help as many refugees as possible, not least when it has the resources and capability to do so.

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