David Cameron will join the leaders of other EU countries on Thursday and Friday for a special summit to discuss the EU's migration policy, following a dramatic increase in the number of irregular migrants trying to enter the EU this year. In recent months there have also been more cases of migrants drowning while trying to cross the Mediterranean.
We must try to find sustainable long-term strategies which will address the underlying problems and help people to stay where in almost all cases they would rather be, namely their own home country. As the conflict continues in Syria, it should be acknowledged that the UK has committed £800million of support in response to the humanitarian crisis, including food, medical care and relief items to people in desperate need in Syria and in the region. But safe and properly organised routes to humanitarian protection, for those who really need it, should also be part of the response.
Europe has been quick and unified to launch a war on smugglers but has shown no political willingness to offer immediate alternatives to these dangerous journeys... Clearly, no political willingness exists in Europe to carry the legal responsibility to provide protection and assistance for people in distress calling for help in the waters just off European shores.
This week, the United Kingdom was declared the most LGBT-friendly place in Europe and yet there is one group of people in this country who have little to celebrate: LGBT asylum seekers. Five years ago, the Conservative Party promised that it would protect LGBT asylum seekers fleeing persecution. So far they have failed.
We should bear that fact in mind before denying our responsibilities in this crisis. Migration and asylum claims are part of our modern world and we need to be pro-active in international collaboration between countries of origin, transit and destination in order to preserve the right to seek international protection.
Khaled sits down in what appears to be an awkward position, his back against the wall. Half sitting, half lying. It is how he sat in his cell in Damaskus. During a total of 12 months, locked up in a cell too small to lie down in, and not high enough to stand up, Khaled was tortured by the Syrian Security forces...
The UK has a problem with immigration. Even those who support migration have to concede that there are practical difficulties, such as a squeeze on school class sizes and GP waiting lists in areas where many new people have settled. This has boosted parties such as UKIP where a withdrawal from the EU - and therefore an end to free migration throughout Europe - is one of their major policies.
In the last 15 years, the Mediterranean Sea has transformed into a graveyard for more than 20,000 migrants and refugees searching for protection and a better life in Europe. At least 3,500 people drowned close to European shores in 2014, many of them from Syria, Eritrea or sub-Saharan Africa. Already this year, 500 people have lost their lives at sea, and that's before the summer period when the majority of people attempt the dangerous crossing.
Between now and April 7th, is an opportunity to further understanding of the events and the circumstances of this extreme violation of human rights. And on April 7th we can join with Planet Syria and innumerable groups and organizations in worldwide peaceful demonstrations of every kind to show international solidarity.
In just over six weeks, we'll wake up to a new Parliament. Immigration will doubtless be a prominent and divisive issue in the run-up to the election. What does this mean for the refugees that will come to Britain fleeing war and persecution over the next five years? The welcome we give to refugees to Britain during the next Parliament depends not on the outcome of the election, but on what happens once it is over. Whoever wins we need to impress on them, and on the public, that a fair and just asylum system is the right thing for Britain and the right thing for the asylum seekers that need our support and protection.