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The Government's Latest Capitulation to Take Up to 3,000 Refugees Is Welcome - But Simply Not Enough

21/04/2016 16:23

Today the Government has announced that it would resettle more refugees from the region. You can be forgiven if you're now overcome by a sense of déjà vu. On the 28 January the Government announced that it would "work with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to lead a new initiative to resettle unaccompanied children from conflict regions" and now they have come forward with the detail.

If I was cynical I'd remark on the fact that this latest announcement comes just days before a crucial vote in the Commons which would force the Tories to take 3,000 vulnerable child refugees from Europe and it seems that the Government are trying to buy off MPs ahead of that.

Of course the Government's latest capitulation to take up to 3,000 individuals from the Syrian region over the next four years is welcome but it is simply not enough. When I travelled to Greece earlier this month I saw thousands of refugee children languishing in camps that were overstretched and understaffed. Tens of thousands of vulnerable children travelling alone arrived in Europe last year - this latest announcement will do nothing for them. Instead they will continue to live on food rations, without access to education and without hope or fall prey to traffickers and those who would exploit them.

Even on the personnel side the Government is failing to step up to the plate. Today's announcement includes an offer of 75 experts to help the Greek authorities 'process' refugees as part of the new EU-Turkey deal. Given that the EU has estimated they will need 4,000 staff to do this effectively and efficiently we must do more. If the Government is committed to following through on a deal that has been widely condemned by international NGOs and now the Council of Europe we should at least properly resource it to ensure that the families caught up in it are processed quickly and in a dignified manner.

The only silver lining is the Government's commitment to use the Dublin regulations and family reunion rules to proactively find those refugees who have family links to the UK. If the Government really are "committed to providing safe and legal routes for the most vulnerable refugees from Syria to resettle to the UK" as the statement professes then they would widen family reunion rules and I will continue to call for them to do this.

I am convinced that this announcement in its totality is a desperate attempt to try and stop compassionate MPs voting to take 3,000 children from Europe on Monday but I would be surprised if any MP falls for it. I certainly haven't.

Tim Farron is the leader of the Liberal Democrats and MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale

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