THE BLOG

Why Has the UK Only Offered Refuge to 100 Syrians?

26/11/2014 17:19 GMT | Updated 26/01/2015 10:59 GMT
ASSOCIATED PRESS

The brutal, chaotic, sprawling Syria crisis is now so multi-faceted, with so many layers, even the newsrooms, experts and seasoned aid-workers are struggling to keep up. I've been working on Syria for nearly four years, yet it continues to horrify me with its images of suffering - of starving families, child amputees and torture survivors. It terrifies me with its prospect of longevity - there is seemingly no end to such an intractable war.

Syria is our darkest hour. Our lack of concerted, international, meaningful action in the face of some of the worst excesses of war - beheadings, sexual violence, enforced 'disappearances' - has provided a grim new global standard for inaction. We know now that the world should have acted years ago to stem the bloody tide. But we didn't.

So the accounts of refugees fleeing Syria grow darker every day. Those with enough spirit left will tell you stories of their struggle for survival. How they melted snow to make drinking water for their children, or burnt their kitchen table legs to stay warm. Or, in the case of one harrowing story, how one mother was forced to leave her tortured son alone in their house while she fled the oncoming assault, because he couldn't move for the pain, and she had to carry two other small children.

Other refugees have less spirit left, and refer to themselves as 'the broken'. They are less talkative. They've dragged their skeleton lives and their remaining family members across the border, seeking safety, but often finding none.

Of the millions of refugees, some will match the criteria set out by the UK government as especially 'vulnerable', who therefore qualify for refugee resettlement. These people are the most vulnerable in a nation of those in desperate need. They are survivors of torture and violence, and women and children at risk or in need of urgent medical care. And they number in the thousands - 180,000 and counting.

We have a proud history of offering help to those in desperate need. Over the years we've offered refuge to many thousands fleeing war or oppression - from the Vietnamese to the Ugandan Asians, to the Kosovars. Yet the Syrians...we've only resettled around 100.

We must settle more. We should resettle at least 10,000, our fair share of the 180,000+ who need to be resettled in the rich and developed nations.

The prospect of peace seems a way off yet. It seems that the world leaders cannot end this war. But here is something we, and our government, can meaningfully do. For too long we've watched as Syria's neighbours took on the burden of care of millions of fleeing refugees, without stepping up to the task ourselves. Now we can stand up for those vulnerable people, fleeing death in their own home, and offer them a place here in the UK. They should be welcome here. Here, where they can breathe easily, find food without fear of a sniper, access hospitals that still stand, and attend schools which preach tolerance, political freedom and kindness. I want the UK to be something I'm proud to be a part of.

Please UK government, scale up your resettlement programme now - when the needs are so unbearably heavy for the children of Syria, and for the countries in the region - when it matters the most.