Fringe Box



Letter: Guildford Should Be Decent Enough To Take 90 Syrian Refugees.

Published on: 4 Sep, 2015
Updated on: 4 Sep, 2015

syrian refugeesFrom George Potter

Lib Dem campaigner

Over the past few days it has been almost impossible to avoid seeing the tragic picture of a drowned toddler washed up on a Turkish beach. And now, at last, it seems like some segments of public opinion are waking up to the refugee crisis on Europe’s borders.

Yet still we hear the voices raised saying that it’s not our problem. That we shouldn’t take any refugees. That we’re “full up”.

Well Turkey has taken two million Syrian refugees. Tiny Lebanon has taken a million – so many that 1 in 4 of its population are seeking refuge from Syria. Germany has promised to take 800,000 this year.

How many have we taken? About 5,000.

Before the war Syria had a population of 22 million people. 9.5 million of them are now refugees – most elsewhere in their own country and the majority of the rest are in camps in neighbouring countries.

These camps aren’t places of safety. Aid agencies don’t have enough money to care for people in the official refugee camps, let alone those in the unofficial ones.

After five years of war any savings these refugees may have had are now exhausted and now thousands are literally being left to starve to death because they have no way of earning enough to buy food and the aid agencies.

They want to go home but they can’t. If they do either ISIS or the Syrian government is likely to kill them.

Attempting to cross the Mediterranean is to risk death. But is it really surprising that so many thousands are willing to risk it when the alternative is so much worse?

And they’re not just Syrians. Millions are being forced to flee their homes because of instability, terrorism and war.

Much of this is ultimately because of us, or rather, our governments. It was Britain, along with France, who carved up the Middle East into countries spanning ethnic and religious fault lines.

It was Britain which helped overthrow Gaddafi yet couldn’t be bothered to try and put the country back together again afterwards. And it was Britain which took part in the invasion of Iraq and destabilised it, making the rise of ISIS possible.

We cannot wash our hands of our involvement in this crisis. And even if we could we shouldn’t.

Because to be in a position to help people who are dying and refusing to help is scarcely any better than killing them yourself.

Two months ago the leader of the Liberal Democrats, Tim Farron, called for the UK to take in 60,000 Syrian refugees. Personally I think we could and should take in more but let’s say we just took that number.

If we did and they spread out evenly throughout the UK then Guildford’s share would be 90 people or about 14 households. We could cope with that and we should cope with that.

After all, within living memory tens of thousands of families in Britain evacuated their children to the care of strangers to escape the Blitz.

They did so in the confidence that helping others is a fundamental British value. Because for most of our history we have granted asylum and refuge to those fleeing horrors elsewhere. Because basic human decency is part of who we are.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could rediscover that same warmth and decency today?

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Responses to Letter: Guildford Should Be Decent Enough To Take 90 Syrian Refugees.

  1. Lisa Wright Reply

    September 4, 2015 at 9:24 am

    As I see it we have two choices. We either welcome our share of Syrian refugees or we send our army into Syria to protect the people in their homeland.

    Either way it will cost the UK government and taxpayer.

    Personally, I prefer to offer a hand of help than point a gun.

  2. Jim Allen Reply

    September 4, 2015 at 9:43 am

    Its easy to play with numbers. There are claims in the media that England has approximately 20% “foreign born” or first generation “outlanders”.

    I use the term “outlanders” because the influx from outside our communities could be from a multitude of sources e.g. movement from county to county within the UK, those granted refugee status, illegal entrants, legal economic migrants or even “Fifth Columnists” from ISIS or the Taliban. Who really knows?

    So before we get too excited about numbers let’s look to our own. There is a claimed need of 13,000 houses in the borough for next 30 years, yet latest calculations excluding migration predicts Guildford will shrink by 2000 – the only additional housing is therefore for 15,000 “Outlanders”.

    So first question we must ask our inner selves is: Why were we not shocked at the other tragic deaths, sometimes of even younger children? To be so shocked at this particular case seems bizarre to me.

    Second question: Why are the empty villages or estates in Ireland, Spain and Italy not being used to provide accommodation for these poor souls?

    Integration of such vast numbers in any country is in reality impossible, we have no jobs to give them, and we must work towards them returning to their own countries and rebuild them into places they want to be, while at the same time showing compassion and understanding to meet their immediate humanitarian needs.

  3. Sue Warner Reply

    September 4, 2015 at 4:01 pm

    Maybe if central government set up temporary basic accommodation with basic food and medical care with the understanding that their stay here is temporary and not an automatic right, no council accommodation, no benefits, maybe these people would be more willing to go home when things have settled down.

    Our infrastructure is already groaning at the seams, in Surrey and elsewhere, any acceptance of “refugees” should be thought about very carefully rather than a knee-jerk reaction so that we look good.

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