Is Nigel Farage riding a Trojan horse full of “terrorist Muslims” from Syria who want to take over the UK!?
The UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage has said the UK should take in some of the most vulnerable Syrian refugees. He said “there is a responsibility on all of us..to try and help some of those people fleeing Syria, literally in fear of their lives.”
It’s a bold move given the negative reactions from many within his party. It’s something Amnesty International has been calling on the UK and other governments to act on for some time now. It’s nearly impossible for refugees or asylum seekers to reach Europe lawfully and as a result they are forced into arduous journeys, risking their lives to seek safety and protection in Europe. Many refugees from Syria who have attempted dangerous boat journeys to reach Europe have died.
The call from Farage follows similar calls from the Labour party and Sir Ming Campbell from the Liberal Democrats. Some Conservative MPs are also making the same call. I hope more will join in the following days and show solidarity with some of the most vulnerable humans on our planet right now.
Predictably though, there have been lots of scare stories and misrepresentations of the issue – something which has blighted the uprising / conflict in Syria since the beginning. I’m not going to link to some of those negative reactions to what Farage has said - some are extremely vile in their open racism and some are just misinformed about what resettlement means. Hopefully the following will clear some points up:
What is resettlement?
This means refugees are transferred from the country to which they have fled to a new country that offers them residency. This is an important tool to take refugees in vulnerable situations to countries that would be able to provide them with better protection and assistance, for example refugees with particular medical needs, survivors of torture, unaccompanied children, and those who face security risks.
When you say "vulnerable refugees" who exactly do you mean?
Amnesty International is asking that any resettlement programme or humanitarian admission places should give priority to those assessed as the most vulnerable refugees by UNHCR. These may include but are not limited to:
• women and girls who are female heads of household with no effective adult male support or protection; who have suffered severe trauma, including sexual and gender-based violence; or who have protection risks related to their gender
• survivors of violence and/or torture: older refugees without effective support and protection, particularly heads of household supporting large families, taking into account their health and individual capacities: refugees with physical protection needs
• refugees with medical needs or disabilities: children and adolescents at risk
• LGBTI refugees at risk in the host country and their partners
• refugees who have family members in a resettlement country, particularly where they are in need of family reunification, recognising an expanded definition of family.
Is resettlement different from asylum seekers being granted asylum?
When asylum-seekers arrive directly into the territory of a country, such as refugees from Syria who arrived irregularly to the EU, they can apply for asylum in EU countries. They then undergo an asylum process that should, in the case of Syrians, recognise them as people in need of international protection.
Resettlement involves transferring people who are already refugees in an other country, typically from a country neighbouring their country of origin; in the case of refugees form Syria, these are Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq and Lebanon.
Shouldn’t refugees stay in the region and not come to the EU?
Other countries do have an important role to play in helping with the Syria refugee crisis. The EU has a particularly important role: it is an important destination for refugees from Syria, with tens of thousand risking taking an arduous journey to try and reach Europe despite the appalling treatment of refugees in places like Bulgaria and Greece. Thousands have risked their lives in boat journeys to reach Italy and hundreds have died.
The UK and other EU countries have given a lot of money to help refugees, isn’t this enough?
Financial contributions to the UN humanitarian appeal for Syria and to the main host countries are very important to ensuring that the 2.3 million refugees in the region receive adequate humanitarian assistance. The EU and some countries in the EU like the UK, have given a substantial amount of money for these purposes, but the main UN humanitarian appeal for refugees from Syria is only just over two-thirds funded. Many refugees in the region are not receiving sufficient support - this is a pretty shameful situation.
Financial contributions are vital but it is imperative that resettlement pledges are substantially increased. There is only so much that humanitarian assistance can achieve in Lebanon or Jordan, whose populations have increased by 19% and 9%, respectively, in the past two years due to the refugee crisis.
What should the UK Government now do?
Eighteen EU countries, including the UK, have not made any resettlement or humanitarian admission pledges. Amnesty International has seen a statement from the Immigration Minister stating that the UK has no plans to resettle or provide temporary protection to vulnerable Syrians, focusing instead on giving as much help as possible to people in the region. Amnesty International wants the UK Prime Minister to reconsider this position and share responsibility for resettlement of refugees from Syria more equally, in particular through a resettlement programme and humanitarian admission places over and above annual resettlement quotas.
Kristyan Benedict is on Twitter as @KreaseChan
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.