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Over the past three months, we have witnessed the greatest refugee crisis since the days of Nazism and as we have seen the state of Syria collapse, we have seen a marked collapse of morality within the ranks of our own government, in our (social) media, and across the continent. The fall of the Syria and refugee crisis has exposed a governmental indecisiveness which cannot be considered as anything but inhumane. As the crisis worsens and the refugees in question become ever more desperate, our nation convulses with fear and hope, tolerance and xenophobia. I acknowledge that these four words display stark contrasts, but this is what I am trying to convey. This crisis has brought out the best and the worst in this nation’s consciousness and whilst many in Britain have turned their backs and closed their eyes, many have opened their eyes, minds and hearts.
Firstly, as these are the shortcomings which I anticipated the most, I would like to discuss the failings of Westminster in the way of a legitimate, significant and humane response to this crisis. David Cameron has not faced this crisis with morality, but overcautious pragmatism, presenting the British public and the Syrian people with an arbitrary figure of ’20,000’. Our nation, with the fifth largest nominal GDP on Earth, will accept a mere 20,000 refugees over a five year period. Are the Syrian people supposed to draw a shred of comfort from this figure? We know that it is not the intention of the Prime Minister to accept any refugees already within Europe, or to participate within any of the European Union’s relocation schemes. The Tory government has consciously transformed a deeply troubling humanitarian crisis to a debate concerning the EU and Britain’s role within it. This is not about Europe. This is about Syria.
The Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme is a drop in the ocean of what needs to be done to give these people a fighting chance at a future which is their right. If we are to take Cameron’s ’20,000’ figure at face value, each local council will only take 2 refugees over the five year period. This figure is grimly disproportionate when compared to the figures put forward from nations such as Germany, Turkey and Lebanon. The Prime Minister, whether intentional or not, is allowing a veiled Euroscepticism shape policy concerning refugees. He is allowing politicians like Nigel Farage to exploit concerns and fears which resonate in the backs of people’s mind. The European debate has its place on the political landscape, and it is NOT beside the people of Syria.
This crisis, however, has gone infinitely further than the dispatch box. The people of the United Kingdom have all been touched by this crisis, some who believe the PM’s decision is too much, and some believe that it is too little. Social media is plastered with people of both minds exchanging confused ideological blows; some advocating humanity and decency, some warning caution and rationality. I personally have seen some truly heart-warming efforts from people all over the nation, to make life for the refugees bearable and these people have asked for no thanks. Sadly however, in equal measure, I have seen people dehumanise, vilify and abuse these migrants on social media, demanding to know simply “Why can’t they just go back home?” or “Why do we have to sort out their mess?”. I refuse to acknowledge questions such as these as legitimate, as I believe doing so is an insult to these people who are putting everything at stake in hope to escape a war-torn state of sectarian slaughter. People need to realise that what is in danger is not our national sovereignty or security, but our morality, our resolve and our sense of humanitarian decency. I accept that, like with any mass movement of people, there are concerns and logistics which need to be addressed, but these should be based on what can be done, not what can be avoided.
As the President of the European Commission put it, ‘the bells toll, the time has come’. This crisis is not something which politicians can shirk or shy away from anymore. More crucially, it is not something which ordinary people can continue to deny and slander. These people ARE desperate. These people ARE coming to Europe. These people ARE people. The sooner these facts are brought to the forefront of the political landscape, the sooner we can bring about a sense of national acceptance. Where we go from there is unknown, but what we will know is that we have not stood idly by whilst fellow human beings are forced to walk into the void alone.