More than 300,000 people have crossed the Mediterranean to Europe so far this year. These people have come from different countries under different circumstances. Some are economic migrants in search of a better life. Many are refugees fleeing conflict. And it is vital to distinguish between the two.
Britain is a moral nation and we will fulfil our responsibilities to those who are fleeing in genuine fear of their lives, as we have done throughout our history. That is why we sent the Royal Navy to the Mediterranean, saving thousands of lives; why we meet our commitment to spend 0.7 per cent of our economy on aid (and are the only nation to have enshrined this in law).
Britain is the second biggest bilateral donor in the world to Syrian refugee camps and we have already given protection to thousands of Syrian refugees. Last week we announced a further £100million in aid, taking our total contribution to more than £1billion, more than every other European country’s contribution put together – that is the UK’s largest ever response to a humanitarian crisis. Sixty million pounds of this additional funding will go to help Syrians still in Syria.
We have already done a huge amount to help, and we will be doing much more.
The Prime Minister set out Britain’s commitment to resettle up to 20,000 Syrian refugees over the next five years, who will be issued with five-year humanitarian protection visas. This will happen directly from the camps in the Middle East to discourage refugees from taking the perilous journey across the Mediterranean at the mercy of criminal gangs. We will continue to use the United Nations process for identifying and resettling refugees.
To support local communities, the Prime Minister has tasked Greg Clark (Communities Secretary) and Theresa May (Home Secretary) to work with councils to find practical solutions to welcome and house these refugees. Government has committed to using the foreign aid budget to finance the costs for the first year and help local councils with housing solutions. In the longer term, we will continue to direct our additional aid spending to these failed states and to the refugee crisis.
I will be continuing to discuss with ministers the long-term and potentially military inputs our nation needs to make to help bring this dreadful war to an end so that Syrians can return to and rebuild their nation.
Many people have very kindly offered to take refugees into their own homes and I am keeping a register of these generous families, which I will link in with the county council’s designated liaison in due course. If you would like to help, please email firstname.lastname@example.org