My speech in Parliament on the refugee crisis and situation in Syria

Britain has a proud tradition in providing a home for genuine asylum seekers and refugees, and delivering international aid around the world. According to the Red Cross, last year 126,000 refugees were living in the UK and more than 30,000 people entered the asylum system, seeking asylum in this country. According to figures from the Home Office, nearly 5,000 Syrians have already been granted asylum in the UK. That is before the announcement made by the Prime Minister that we would take a further 20,000 people, through the Syrian scheme, during this Parliament.

The Prime Minister is right to focus our efforts on the region itself. We should be looking at the aid we are delivering to Syria and the support in the camps in the region where we are playing a leading role. That is where we and other countries should be making more of an effort, rather than encouraging people to make perilous journeys across Europe.

Help is needed on the ground, close to Syria. Millions of people are on the move. No one is suggesting that any one European country can accommodate millions of people. There should be a bigger international effort to provide safe havens in the region itself.

The Home Secretary was absolutely right to focus on the efforts that have been made by the Government in conjunction with the French Government in Calais. This is very important. Although the death of a three-year-old boy touched the heartstrings of everyone all around the world, it has not been the only death this summer. I represent the constituency where the channel tunnel enters this country. Migrants have died seeking to access the channel tunnel to get into this country. That cannot be allowed to continue. We have an obligation to protect our borders and to safeguard the lives of people seeking to enter this country. We need to ensure that the border and the frontier are secure.

The Government have provided millions of pounds for proper security fencing, which has safeguarded the channel tunnel site and led to a massive reduction in the disruption of services, which has been a terrible blight on the people in the south-east of England and Kent throughout the summer. The fencing has also prevented people from breaking into the tunnel where they can not only lose their lives but endanger the lives of other people as well. That support, in conjunction with the extra policing effort from the British and French police forces, has been a huge step towards securing the site at Calais.

We all want to see proper humanitarian intervention in the camps as well. No one is advocating that we should let everyone who is at Calais into this country without any checks. If we did so, we would encourage greater numbers of people to make that treacherous journey to get to those camps, believing that simply arriving there is enough to provide them with instant access to the UK. That is not what should be done. There has to be proper processing of people on the sites to determine who are the genuine refugees and asylum seekers. Decisions can then be made about where they should go to seek asylum. That is the next necessary step.

This refugee crisis has been caused by an out-of-control war and civil war in Syria and Iraq, which is displacing millions of people. There must be an international solution to stabilise the region and provide safe havens, but we must also consider what other tools we have at our disposal to limit the murder gangs and the genocide being committed by ISIL forces in the region.

We would be doing a massive disservice to the refugees and the people living in these countries if we refuse to consider whether using our armed forces and airstrikes in Syria as we have in Iraq is the only appropriate step to prevent likely murder, the likely displacement of even more people and even more misery. We must consider that alongside our efforts in the region, to provide safe haven in this country and to protect our borders. That is the broad strategy that the Government have set out and they are correct to have done so. I do not think that there is too much of a difference between the positions of those on both sides of the House, but we must consider seriously the efforts to provide more safe havens and ultimately, if necessary, the use of our armed forces if we are to provide a decent service and decent hope for the people living in these countries.

Copyright 2021 Damian Collins. All rights reserved

Promoted by Stephen James for and on behalf of Damian Collins, both of Folkestone & Hythe Conservative Association both at 4 West Cliff Gardens, Folkestone, Kent CT20 1SP


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