Who wouldn’t be moved by child’s death?

Stewart Jackson MP's Westminster Life column in the Peterborough Telegraph - peterboroughtoday.co.uk
Stewart Jackson MP's Westminster Life column in the Peterborough Telegraph - peterboroughtoday.co.uk

Since the publication of a distressing photo of the body of a Kurdish refugee child on a Turkish beach, the one and only story in the media and a talking point cross the UK and the world this week is of course the migrant crisis in Europe.

This is caused mainly by the terrible civil war in Syria, between the evil despot Bashir Assad and the evil jihadist barbarians of so-called Islamic State.

Who wouldn’t be moved by a child’s senseless death?

As it happens, I voted for the option of taking military action against the Syrian regime when the Commons debated it in 2013 and it was the then Labour Leader Ed Miliband shamefully reneged on an agreement with David Cameron to support possible action on a cross party action, which scuppered the option - and one wonders where we’d be now had the Commons voted a different way? This was of course after Assad had gassed his own people!

My postbag is split on the refugee issue – many people think Peterborough has already done its fair share on immigration. We welcomed Ugandan Asians in 1972, were an asylum seeker dispersal centre in 2000 and have borne a heavy burden in unskilled Eastern European migration since 2004. My view is that it’s up to Peterborough City Council to make their decision as they see fit based on facts not emotional blackmail. Those local authorities who can help should do so.

The most vocal critics of possible Syrian military intervention are the same people complaining about the UK’s lack of “compassion.” They’re usually also consistently in favour of unlimited immigration in all cases! Emotion alone won’t solve the crisis however. Government is about taking tough decisions in the national interest not jumping on a bandwagon to show how “compassionate” you are, either individually or as a Government.

I disagree with constituents who claim the UK has done little to ameliorate this crisis and that apparently we should be “ashamed” at our response because David Cameron has refused to be hectored and bullied by Germany, which has itself ripped up the Dublin Convention on asylum seekers and failed to tackle the long term solution to this migrant crisis, which is to continue to work in the Middle East to try to rebuild Syria and her neighbours and work for a lasting peace.

So let’s get the facts right: The UK has committed £900 million for humanitarian assistance in response to the Syria crisis, making us the second largest bilateral donor in the world, of which approximately £378 million has been allocated to partners providing humanitarian assistance inside Syria, and £422 million to support refugees and host communities in neighbouring countries. This is the UK’s largest ever response to a humanitarian crisis and has provided monthly food rations for 8.7 million people in Syria and neighbouring countries between February 2013 and September 2014. New aid initiatives totaling £217 million in Africa will go to help approximately 2.5 million refugees and vulnerable people in the countries that the majority of migrants are travelling from or through. This is part of over £4 billion the Government has already committed to improving 
economic development, governance and security in African states as well as improving access to basic services.

I support David Cameron’s measured and sensible commitment to do even more and take 20,000 refugees direct from the refugee camps in the Middle East between now and 2020, with a focus on children and orphans and those minorities who have been systematically persecuted over many years – Christians, Kurds and Yazidis, for instance.

So don’t let ignorant people tell you we haven’t stepped up again to honour our long and proud history of caring for the poor, unfortunate and vulnerable across the world.

It’s untrue and an insult to all that’s best about being British.