David Cameron’s refugee response would appal past Tory prime ministers

Edward Heath admitted 27,000 Ugandan Asians , Thatcher admitted 24,500 Vietnamese refugees and John Major took in 4,000 Bosnians. Cameron has taken 200 Syrians.


In the last 24 hours the front pages of our newspapers have shown us pictures of the lifeless body of a toddler, washed up on a Turkish beach. His name was Aylan Kurdi and he was three years old when he died. His five-year-old brother Galip also drowned along with their mother Rehan.

The family had fled from a village just outside Kobani in northern Syria, scene of intense fighting between ISIS and Kurdish forces. They are among the most recent refugee fatalities who have lost their lives in their desperate attempts to reach safety. By the time this blog is posted, it is certain that more refugees will have drowned.

The International Organisation for Migration estimates that since January of this year, over 350,000 migrants have crossed the Mediterranean, mostly to Italy and Greece.  The vast majority are refugees fleeing conflict or persecution, with Syrians and Eritreans being the two largest groups. Many of those fleeing go on to apply for asylum with nearly 500,000 new asylum applications submitted in EU states since January 2015.

Germany and Hungary receive the largest number of new applications – over 200,000 and 70,000 respectively. In contrast, the UK received just over 12,000 asylum applications in the first six months of this year.

Aylan’s image and the suffocation of 71 refugees in Austria last week have sparked louder calls for a more coordinated humanitarian response to the refugees fleeing to Europe. There have been demonstrations in support of refugees in many European capitals. But humanity and coordination seem in short supply, with many EU governments unwilling to act.   

In response to the growing Mediterranean crisis, the European Commission published its new Agenda on Migration in June this year. This plan increased the budget for the Frontex-coordinated Operations Triton and Poseidon, maritime search and rescue operations off Italy and Greece. The Agenda on Migration also proposed two voluntary relocation schemes, resettling 20,000 Syrians and Eritreans and 40,000 migrants from Italy and Greece.

The EU response has been driven by the French and German governments, which have both called for a greater sharing of responsibility for refugees among EU members.

The UK has declined to be part of the two proposed resettlement programmes. So far, the UK has admitted just over 200 Syrian refugees through a Vulnerable Refugee Resettlement programme that began operation in early 2014. A further 6,000 Syrians have made their own way here and applied for asylum.

Yvette Copper, the shadow home secretary, has now called on the government to admit more refugees. She has requested that the government expand the Gateway Protection Programme which brings small numbers of refugees to the UK every year.

On arrival, they receive a 12-month integration programme delivered by local authorities and non-governmental organisations such as the Refugee Council. Yvette Cooper’s suggestions would mean that up to 10,000 refugees would be brought to the UK, with responsibility for them shared evenly across the country.

The Gateway programme is the latest of a number of refugee resettlement schemes, including ones to resettle Ugandan Asians, Vietnamese, Bosnians and Kosovars. Edward Heath admitted 27,000 Ugandan Asians in 1972, Thatcher admitted 24,500 Vietnamese refugees between 1979 and 1992 and John Major agreed to take in 4,000 Bosnians.

Yesterday, David Cameron made clear that the UK government would not admit more refugees. His response and use of language sets him aside from Angela Merkel and from Tory leaders such as Heath, Thatcher and Major who have shown generosity to refugees in the past.

His response lacks humanity and shows that the UK wants a one-sided relationship with the EU in which this country accepts as few European obligations as possible, but retains all the gains.

Jill Rutter is a contributing editor to Left Foot Forward

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61 Responses to “David Cameron’s refugee response would appal past Tory prime ministers”

  1. Jacko

    The difference is that those prime ministers had not inherited a society suffering from immigration fatigue.

    This is entirely the fault of the last Labour goverment. They increased inmigration to 500% of historical levels, largely comprised of economic migrants, and now there is a humanitarian refugee issue, people’s willingness to accept more immigration is very low.


    There is an issue of security. What if Jihadists are attempting to get in. Can wee take the chance.

  3. Yvonne Lunde-andreassen

    Stupid Woman ! It is NOT the Prime Minister personally who will suffer from the surfeit of migrants but our indiginous poor you know……the 77000 on zero contracts the thousand of people already living in temporary accommodation. I find it absolutely AMAZING that nobody seems to understand this situation or underatnd that the entire population of certain countries want to take over our societies and will push aside our own poor.

  4. Nick

    My wife fled Sudan in 1979 and was sponsored by 2 doctors also on the flight fleeing war and famine. They had to Sponsor her for ten years as there nanny after which she could then apply in her own right to stay and be given a UK citizenship

    For her first 10 years she was not allowed to work other than for, her sponsors and was not able to receive any DWP payments whatsoever

    From ten years onwards as uk citizen she has worked full time and to this day has not received any payments from the DWP only from her employer

    She has always maintained this to be a fair process and that the whole world will take this process up

    She like most refugees would love to go home but in her case like many other people across the world it is not possible as the conflicts that caused them to flee in the first place are still ongoing

    I was lucky to meet her in 1990 and have been very happy ever since as I grew up in the fifties with the refugees/migrants at that time so I knew first hand that this was a silver lining in both our lives

    If this country had built the houses it needed back in fifties instead of still today keep talking about them then things overall with costs of houses and rents would still be low

  5. madasafish

    All those in favour of more people putting pressure on our housing stiock will no doubt volunteer to board an entire family in their house for the next decade.

    All those in favour of more people putting pressure on our budget deficit will no doubt volunteer to pay 10% of their gross income to the Treasury as an extra tax to fund these refugees. For ever.

    And all those in favour of more people bringing in trained ISIS killers – as threatened by ISIS – to kill Brits – can attend the subsequent funerals, comfort the grieving relatives and pay for pensions, childcare, medical help etc.

    I’ll admire them greatly and follow their example.

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