Comment: Cameron must wake up and join the EU’s response to the refugee crisis

Let's not further diminish our standing in Europe


Sometimes it just takes one photo to turn the tide of public opinion. One picture of a young girl, running for her life from a napalm attack, helped solidify opposition to the Vietnam War in the 1970s. The now iconic photo of a man standing in front of a tank in Tiananmen Square, Beijing, became a global symbol of defiance against oppression.

Now it is the heart-wrenching photo of Aylan Kurdi, the tiny Syrian boy found washed up dead on a Turkish beach, which has roused the public’s emotions and shone a stark light on the UK and Europe’s failure to respond adequately to the refugee crisis unfolding on our borders.

In the face of pressure from the public, media and some of his backbenchers, David Cameron has at last relented and accepted that the UK should take in a higher number of refugees from Syria. Yet he still refuses to contemplate a broader, European response to this crisis.

Plans are being drawn up to take a limited number of refugees directly from camps on Syria’s borders, but much to the dismay of our EU partners, Cameron continues to rule out taking part in an EU response to the thousands of desperate refugees arriving on Europe’s shores. This may be politically expedient, but it is strategically short-sighted. Only by working together at the EU level can we address the biggest refugee crisis since WW2.

Yesterday I visited Calais to see the humanitarian situation of migrants and would-be asylum-seekers there first-hand. I met Syrians, Afghans, Eritreans and Sudanese men and children. Many had undergone appalling journeys to get to the camp and were now living in horrendous conditions, all in the hope of one day reaching the UK.

Contrary to public perception, their motives had nothing to do with the British benefits system. Asylum seekers receive around 80 euros a week in France, almost twice what they would get in the UK. The vast majority wanted to reach Britain either because they spoke good English, they had relatives here already or they thought it would be easier to find a job.

What was abundantly clear was that building yet more walls and fences will not deter these desperate people, who have already overcome huge obstacles during their long, perilous journeys. We need a real long-term solution, not more tough-sounding rhetoric and political posturing.

Firstly that means ending the current perverse situation in which some EU countries are doing vastly more than others to respond to this crisis. By the end of this year Germany expects to take in up to 800,000 refugees, compared to just a few hundred in neighbouring Poland. And in 2014 Sweden processed twice as many asylum requests than the UK, or 17 times more per person.

Meanwhile countries such as Italy, Greece and Hungary are struggling to cope with the vast flow of migrants entering into Europe, with many being left for months in overcrowded and unsanitary detention centres. The EU’s broken asylum system is on the verge of collapse.

Next week the European Commission will come forward with a plan that would redistribute up to 160,000 refugees more equally around the EU. This would be the first step in creating an EU-wide system that offers safe and legal routes into Europe, processes asylum requests more efficiently and ensures that all EU countries play their part in offering sanctuary to genuine refugees.

Until such a system is in place, thousands will continue to perish making the perilous journey into Europe and thousands more will continue to be left in limbo in places like Calais, Ventimiglia and Budapest.

I am urging the Conservative government to be part of this European solution and not part of the problem. Let’s take in our fair share of Europe’s refugees, while stepping up joint efforts to tackle the root causes in countries like Syria and Eritrea.

Britain has a long and proud tradition of looking after the vulnerable and those fleeing conflict and persecution. Let’s stay true to that tradition of compassion, decency and tolerance, and not further diminish our standing in Europe and the world.

Catherine Bearder is a Liberal Democrat MEP

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39 Responses to “Comment: Cameron must wake up and join the EU’s response to the refugee crisis”

  1. Terry

    Taking more is NOT the answer, because then there will be more, where do you stop? When we are all poor except those with money! to shield themselves from the mess.

  2. Chris Kitcher

    The problem is with simple minded Camoron is that like his chums in government he believes that every problem is solved by throwing cash, our cash, at it. He is totally incapable of realising that some problems require compassion and humane understanding to even begin to resolve.

  3. Chris Kitcher

    In fact I would suggest that his gesture to put £100 million towards humanitarian aid is merely to increase the profits of his chums who are making the goods that will be needed. Neo-liberals bah not a decent one amongst them.

  4. DRbilderburg

    Ok Bearder what exactly are you going to do for these poor wretches apart from feign faux outrage on a neoliberal siteTthe nearest you’ve ever been to these people is through reading an article in the Guardian

  5. Zarniwoop

    £100million on top of the £900million already donated = £1billion 🙁

  6. Zarniwoop

    Yes Catherine let them all come and they can sit with the 8million foreign born nationals the UK is already host too.

    When will enough truly be enough to people like you?

  7. Roy


  8. I'm very cross about this.

    Wouldn’t it be nice to live in the totally deluded world of Catherine Bearder. So we allow how many to enter, is it 100,000, 200,000? It matters not because either number is too many. Catherine we simply do not have the infrastructure to absorb these people, on a different day you would be hand wringing on the state of the NHS, class sizes in schools and unemployment. Allowing the level of immigration we have to continue and adding god knows how many more is utter stupidity. In fact on reflection it’s about the level of stupidity I would expect from the Lib Dems. Grow up woman and propose a meaningful solution to the major problem.

  9. I'm very cross about this.

    So once we have compassionately and humanely understood, what do you want to do then that doesn’t involve money? This latest 100 million increases our aid budget to £1 Billion a year.

    We regularly hear the left, greens and lib dems rattle on about housing, the NHS, schools and any other public service you care to mention so instead of hand wringing make a proposal that addresses the plight of these people that still allows us to function as a society. Clue, allowing an extra 100,000 in on top of the 300,000 thousand we took last year is not a viable proposition.

  10. treborc

    Yes we do just get rid of those who are sick disabled , just takes a quick fix, Germany did it once.

  11. treborc

    Blair let in about four million plus did not cause to much concern.

  12. treborc

    yes more and more and more, but they will come and we have little choice.

  13. I'm very cross about this.

    Please point me to anywhere in my post where I suggested we get rid of the sick and disabled. My post set out very clearly that the thinking of Bearder is childlike in the extreme and your post is little better.

    It is stupid in the extreme to suggest that we can absorb the significant numbers required, we can’t because our Hospitals, schools etc, can’t cope. The latest addition to our aid budget announced by Cameron takes our aid to £1 billion, a sum of money that should immediately be diverted to the setting up of reception and safety areas in Africa and policed by the UN to ensure the refugees are safe and looked after. It would be nice too if other countries of the EU that claim a moral superiority would match our level of aid because none do.

    Instead we have the infantile thinking of MP’s and MEP’s who think we take X thousand refugees the flow will stop; it won’t, it will attract more but I predict we’ll carry on as we are with our immigration policy set on Twitter.

  14. stevep

    Despite heroic efforts by our gutter rags to portray the refugees as swarming hordes, their vile propaganda has failed and compassion has triumphed. A single photo spoke a thousand words and opened a million hearts.
    Hungary and Germany have responded by offering aid and a welcome to those in need and Cameron has saved face by letting his economic string-puppet, Boy George, to grudgingly announce Britain will be doing more to help.
    We should welcome them with open arms. They will make a valid contribution to our country, it`s culture and the economy.
    Judging by some of the more sub-human comments on this page, the migrants will make a significant contribution to the UK gene pool too.

  15. jed shed

    Just for clarity. Is any net inward migration acceptable to you?


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  17. I'm very cross about this.

    Just for clarity, I have no difficulty with immigration but I have a major problem with turning the UK into a reception centre for Africa’s displaced. We have a moral duty to help these people but destroying our own society by overloading our infrastructure isn’t going to help anyone. Where we are now is in a bidding contest for refugees; Germany just raised us 800,000. do we raise, check or fold? Germany would do better if it matched our amount of aid and we all directed that aid towards helping these people.

    I never expected to get too much sense on this site and haven’t been disappointed.

  18. Chris Kitcher

    On what do you base your assertion that ” an extra 100,000 in on top of the 300,000 thousand we took last year is not a viable proposition.”?

  19. Giles Farthing

    Thanks Catherine, great article on your lack of connection with all but a few shouty lefties.presumably you will board some of the angry young men seen on the news in your house and you have drawn up criteria for which British families you kick off the housing list and make homeless

  20. Ann Sinclair

    This is not ‘liberal’, ‘neo’ or not. It’s a bunch of fifth-formers sucking up to every fascist on the planet as long as he hates democracy.

  21. Ann Sinclair

    Delusional nonsense.

  22. Ann Sinclair

    On being sane.

  23. Ann Sinclair

    It did, among the sane who didn’t vote Labour.

  24. stevep

    No, not deluded, enlightened. Remember what light looks like?

  25. Chris Kitcher

    Pretty stupid answer but then again you don’t vote Labour so pretty stupid answer would be the norm.

  26. Chris Kitcher

    It caused a lot of concern amongst the Tories and the Kippers but then again they are a pretty stupid bunch anyway.

  27. Ann Sinclair

    You are an idiot.

  28. Ann Sinclair

    Spoken like a true dumb Labour sheeple.

  29. Ann Sinclair

    Yes, that thing that ignorant far left reactionary sheeple haven’t seen in years.

  30. Chris Kitcher

    Not so matey. I have the thinking processes to vote Labour whilst the dumb ones amongst us vote Tory or UKIP. Been thinking recently about supporting the voluntary euthanasia movement as this would be a welcome release for the terminally stupid Tories and Kippers.

  31. DRbilderburg

    no mp, journalist or powerbroker, has ever done anything for any refugee except use them for a photo shoot Their jobs and livelyhoods are not threatened, a lifetime of gravy train while those scumbag peasents can take the hit .The poorest in society pay for refugees created by the scum that pose as human beings Governmnts journalists mps scum of the earth, lowest of the low

  32. I'm very cross about this.

    I’m not sure which but you either can’t read or can’t understand simple points.

    1. Hospitals running out of money.

    2. You can’t get a GP appointment.

    3. We have a housing shortage.

    4. School class sizes already too large.

    Need I go on or do you think that adding a further 100,000 to our population won’t make matters worse?

    Since the dreadful picture of that dead child the left and in particular the BBC have gone into meltdown. The BBC has spent several days telling us that public opinion has shifted and we all want to allow more immigration to solve this problem. Well I have news for the hand wringers at the BBC, they’re wrong. The BBC has opened comments for the first time on one of their stories and the general public has torn them a new arsehole. Take a look, BBC entered panic mode and shut down comments because they didn’t like the message they were being sent.

  33. Chris Kitcher

    You appear to be a complete arse. The four points that you list are the direct result of Tory policies caused by their obsession with austerity. What sensible government would kill the poor and vulnerable whilst at the same time give a £ 107,000 tax rebate to the super rich?
    We have more than enough money in the shitty little country to ensure that everyone has enough money to live a good life. In fact as a sovereign nation that controls its own currency we do not have the problems experienced by non sovereign countries
    To prove that you are not the arse that you appear to be look at the figures before making such stupid comments and committing them to print.

  34. I'm very cross about this.

    Explain why it matters whether it’s the result of Tory policy or a drug addled Scottish lunatic who broke the economy? The point is it’s real, it’s a fact, it’s happening. Whether you like it or not we have a Tory government that has been democratically elected so austerity isn’t going to change any time soon and adding large numbers of people to an over stretched system is going to make it worse. If as I hope; I voted for him, labour get Comrade Corbyn as leader then you will have at least a generation to get used to Tory governments.

  35. stevep

    Or even more pig-ignorant far-right brainwashed trolls find they are blinded by when they pull their heads out of the darkness and smell of their own backsides and wonder what it is they are seeing.

  36. Chris Kitcher

    You really are a complete arse. Camoron and his motley crew were only elected by a minority of nasty self centered xenophobes through a corrupt ele toral system.
    The stupid fallacy peddled by our right wing press are building up a mass of thick morons who believe that anything printed in their perverted rantings. Sadly you appear to be one of them.

    I have voted for Jeremy Corbyn as I believe that his compassion and foresight is the very thing that this xenophobic shitty little country needs to counter the rabid racism of Camoron and his group of nasty bastards.

    As for a generation of Tory rule it will ensure that we are worse than the Nazis if the idiot Camoron is allowed to get away with his message of hate.

  37. I'm very cross about this.

    Jeremy Corbyn is a Marxist and if he’s elected; please let it be, then he will be the best leader since Foot and Kinnock as far as the Conservatives are concerned. Never mind what you think of those who elected the Conservatives, elected they were and the dimwit Milliband was rejected and that Comrade is democracy.

    Responding to this rejection by taking a massive jump to the left is complete and utter lunacy and to my astonishment I have actually found something I can agree with Blair on with regard to Corbyn.

    Not only will labour be unelectable under Corbyn, it is very unlikely he will be able to form a shadow cabinet. At least he won’t be able to attract the more able of those in the PLP to serve alongside him. Shadow Chancellor Abbot and Shadow Home Secretary Skinner have a rather nice sound.

    Charlotte Church is going to have a lot she is not going to take any more of.

  38. Chris Kitcher

    Jremey Corbyn a Marxist? You daft bugger, Jeremy Corbyn is left wing not even hard left like myself.
    When he is elected we can wave bye bye to your neoliberal chums, Camoron et al, and I would like to be the first at the gallows to see them hang for their crimes against the poor and vulnerable.

  39. Mick

    Indeed. Cameron IS allowing 10,000 to come in – unsieved quite possibly – paid for from the foreign aid bill; a development which councils like her liberal buddies moan about.

    No moaning from the Left about the many thousands of fake Syrian passports bought up by people on the make wishing to be trafficked. Only whines that, ooo, bombing ISIS to make these people’s houses their homes again is just too VULGAR!


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