Syria: If Britain is unwilling to help the rebels, it should open its doors to Syrian refugees

Welcoming Syrian refugees to Britain would go some way to dissipating the idea that yesterday was all about politicking, rather than the lives of innocent people in a warzone.

Migration

While politicians were splitting hairs over UN weapons inspections last night, a Syrian government fighter plane was preparing to dump its lethal payload on a Damascus primary school.

A video of the incident emerged as if to coincide with the parliamentary vote not to punish the use of chemical weapons by the Assad government, with camera footage emerging showing children fleeing the scene of the outrage with napalm-like burns on their bodies.

If anything, this highlights the perversity of relying only on the proported use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime as justification for military action. Conventional bombs are equally lethal, as was spelt out acerbically by Dominic Tierney, political science professor of Swarthmore College in the US:

“Blowing your people up with high explosives is allowable, as is shooting them, or torturing them,” he said. “But woe betide the Syrian regime if it even thinks about using chemical weapons!”

It is not the case, as some seem to enjoy implying, that now the British Parliament has spoken there will be no war – people are still dying in Syria and will continue to die until the day Bashar al Assad no longer remains in power. Yes, in a war. And besides, Socialist French President Francois Hollande and Democrat US President Barack Obama look set to take action anyway, ensuring the UK has done little more than send a message saying it prefers the status quo in Syria to militarily trying to push the conflict towards a more amenable conclusion.

For those of us who did support limited military action, it is hard to see how intervention could have made things any worse than they are already. As we have seen before in Rwanda, Srebrenica and now Syria, inaction can have more deleterious consequences than action, the only difference seemingly that politicians who advocate doing nothing get off scot free when civilians die in a way that the proponents of intervention never do – undoutedly a part of its political appeal.

To date two million people have now fled Syria as a consequence of the country’s civil war, half of them children. The UN expects that by the end of 2013 there will be 3.5 million Syrian refugees. Even getting out of Syria is by no means an end to the hardship. As Saman Majed has written in the Independent:

“It is a miserable situation. One of the main challenges in delivering aid is that they are so widely disbursed. Local army units are helping out by providing meals, and there is a big campaign amongst the host communities to donate clothes. But few agencies are working with the arrivals who are not in camps.”

Most refugees have ended up in Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey. Some have made their way to Britain, but for obvious reasons not as many as have ended up in neighbouring countries.

However now that Britain will not be intervening militarily in Syria, what is to stop the UK using the money which would have been spent on taking the country to war on bringing Syrian refugees here and helping them to settle in the UK?

David Cameron recently announced at the G8 that the UK would more than double its response to the Syria crisis with £175 million in new funding. Yet the money that would have been spent on action in Syria must vastly outweighs this relatively paltry sum.

If Cameron is serious about intervening on a humanitarian basis on Syria, why not “intervene” in the sense of inviting those refugees fleeing Syria to come and settle here in the UK? Britain could easily absord, say, a million Syrians – many of whom are young people – and provide them with the means to settle and create a feasible life (something it does not look like they are going to get in Syria) in Britain.

While I hold very little hope that this policy would be adopted by a Tory-led government, Ed Miliband could go some way to dispelling the myth that non intervention in Syria is based on the strength of isolationist, Little Englanderism by making the case for solidarity with the Syrian refugees. This would also help to dissipate the idea that yesterday was about politicking, rather than about the lives of innocent people in a warzone.

16 Responses to “Syria: If Britain is unwilling to help the rebels, it should open its doors to Syrian refugees”

  1. bensix

    It is not the case, as some seem to enjoy implying, that now the British Parliament has spoken there will be no war – people are still dying in Syria and will continue to die until the day Bashar al Assad no longer remains in power.

    Are you suggesting that on the day Assad falls, all of the ex-army rebels, Salafists, Allawites and so on will suddenly stop killing each other? I think this dramatically obscures the nature of a civil war.

    Britain could easily absord, say, a million Syrians – many of whom are
    young people – and provide them with the means to settle and create a
    feasible life (something it does not look like they are going to get in
    Syria) in Britain.

    I think you underestimate the complexities of finding new jobs, homes and school places. Given the difficulties of finding them for people already inside Britain, suddenly absorbing a million people would be as difficult as it would unpopular.

  2. Chrisso

    This is the latest daft article to be posted on this site, which I formerly supported! It’s time for such writers that want us to go off to militarily meddle in civil war in countries that do not border us or threaten us, to deal with the Commons vote and move on. Exactly what is so ‘left foot forward’ about indulging in such foreign adventures? So suggesting that Britain take on an additional one million people is plainly silly.

  3. hawkerhurricane

    I’ve got an almost equally good idea. All those beating the drums for bombing ‘the bad guy’, put on their shoes, get out of their arm chair and get military training, and go and fight against Assad. There are plenty of Islamist international brigades backed with Saudi petrochemical dollars that they could join.

  4. NT86

    The same rebels belonging to Al Qaeda and various other Saudi/Qatari backed groups?

  5. JR

    I took issue with your full blooded support for military intervention yesterday, but would not wish to rule out any intervention at any stage. I find it intriguing that the PMs failure to prepare and control his backbench has translated into no action at all, his conviction seems to have faltered at the first hurdle.

    Having gotten over excited and tripped over himself, Cameron now seems to be trying to lead from the floor by trumpeting about the will of the people, and winging about Iraq, whcih the Tories supported anyway.

    I would hope that this is not the start of a petulant excuse to call further deaths the fault of Labour. In this breath, one must also blame the UK public who are not in favour, or indeed, John Redwood, who abstained.

    That said, your humanitarian point about refugees is interesting. I’m not sure how such a policy could ever be implemented, but it would be a stronger show of support in many ways than a cruise missile would ever be.

  6. F. Lopez

    Humanitarian intervention, and the so-called “right to protect” have unintended consequences.

    Bosnia, and especially Srebrenica, are frequently cited as examples of the consequence of Western inaction.

    However, I think the possibility of “humanitarian intervention” made the war in Bosnia worse. It didn’t deter the Serbs. NATO had already carried out limited air strikes against the Bosnian-Serbs before Srebrenica happened.

    What the possibility of “humanitarian intervention” did do was cause the Bosnian-Muslims to engage in behavior that placed their own civilian population at greater risk in order to provoke Western retaliation against the Serbs.

    Bosnian-Muslims soldiers in Sarajevo fired at the Serbs from civilian facilities inside the city. One notorious example of this was when UN Military Observers witnessed them opening fire at the Serbs from the grounds of the Kosevo Hospital, which is the largest civilian medical facility in all of Bosnia. The purpose of shooting at the Serbs from the hospital was to draw retaliatory fire against the hospital so that the World can see the Serbs shooting at a hospital.

    The Bosnian Government had the ability to prevent Srebrenica too. The Drina Corps of the Bosnian-Serb Army was stretched very thin. If the 2nd Corps of the Bosnian Army had carried out a diversionary attack on the Drina Corp’s line, then it would have taken a lot of the pressure off of the men escaping from Srebrenica because the Bosnian-Serbs wouldn’t have had the manpower to capture the prisoners in the first place because they would have been busy fending off the 2nd Corps.

    Not only did the Bosnian Government not help, when it had the manpower and material to do so, but it also blocked humanitarian aid from reaching the refugees who had been expelled from Srebrenica. The Bosnian Government was actively trying to make the situation worse in order to focus international attention on the suffering of the refugees and thereby pressure the West into going to war against the Bosnian-Serbs on their behalf.

    The unintended consequence of humanitarian intervention is that it incentivises the belligerents to sacrifice and jeopardize the safety of their civilians, so that they can receive the military benefits of humanitarian intervention against the opposing side.

    If you draw “red lines” and tell the Assad Regime that we’ll bomb you if you do this, then you give the rebels incentive to try and provoke him into crossing those “red lines” and doing what he was told not to do.

  7. Chris

    “the UK has done little more than send a message saying it prefers the status quo in Syria to militarily trying to push the conflict towards a more amenable conclusion.”

    You can’t re-write history in real-time! This explicitly is NOT on the table and never was. There is no intervention planned to push the conflict, just a signal, limited, small. A shot across the bows and then safely back to base, free to napalm, rape and kill, torture and maim tomorrow. If anything from what we heard before the vote, it was an inflammation.

    And it is naive to repeat to the Tory narrative that Miliband is politicking. You are doing Lynton Crosby’s job for him. Might as well say “weak, weak weak”.

  8. toneekay

    James it might be better for you to retire from commentary on geo-politics. The ‘it’s about the children’ guff is fair enough – if Stacey Solomon’s being grilled by Alan Carr. I notice that LFF lacks a horoscope writer. Capricorn.

  9. Sparky

    Because invading Iraq has been such a positive thing for the world, hasn’t it?

  10. ThisIsTheEnd

    For those of us who did support limited military action, it is hard to see how intervention could have made things any worse than they are already
    Yeah and Vietnam started with the small deployment of military advisors…

  11. ThisIsTheEnd

    I’m just amazed how the biggest military cockup in the last forty years have had no effect on some people

  12. blarg1987

    The trouble with civil wars is that innocent people are put at risk, now encouragve several holesing to come here to settle is not necessarily the best thing as we want these people to use their skills and knowledge to rebuild their country when eveything has settled down.

    A practical solution could be UN peacekeepers to come in and set up neutral zones, where neither side can enter, and people entering are searched for weapons, this keeps people safe and the country trading.

    Eventually both sides will osse out to this neutral zone as economies rely on trade and so peaceful transition can be achieved.

    I accept it does have several flaws but I believe the principle is sound.

  13. swatanan

    Better still, let them go to Israel, even if they have to break down the walls to get in. Its about time Israel took full responsibility for being the root cause of all the troubles in the Middle East. In fact let all the refugees fleeing Egypt Libya, Lebanon, Jordan and Palestine even the Sudan and Nigeria, deposit themselves in Israel. They should not come to Britain.

  14. bgghhjyjyuuyyuuy

    This is ridiculous the UK is so full with immigrants we are close to collapse sign the petition to stop immigrants claiming benefits

    http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/54360

  15. goofy girl

    I agree something must be done to help these poor people. Someone once said ‘Bad things happen when good men do nothing’. At the very least we should be letting as many as we can come here to escape the dreadful horror they are caught up in. There but for the Grace of God go all of us.
    With regard to military action, the West is between a rock and a hard place: if we attack Assad militarily we will be accused of war mongering; if we do nothing we will be accused of not caring or being weak!

  16. Metasham Crystilic

    Taking on a million refugees definitely fits into the ‘left agenda’ that’s for sure!

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