There are no borders to compassion

We have been asking party conferences across the UK whether we have done enough to tackle the refugee crisis. This week was the turn of the Conservatives.

As everyone rushes from meeting to meeting at party conferences, trying to look important and fretting over the canapes, it is the moments when you hear from people who are out there, making a difference when things are truly put into perspective. When you hear people like Alison from Medicine Sans Frontiers describe her work in refugee camps or on search and rescue boats, the hurriedness of conference and the overwhelming complexity of the response needed to this crisis fades. What replaces it is her compassion. A compassion that drives her to make a difference and your desire to join her.

As she tells us of sisters drowned, women beaten and burnt, and of the time the medical team on board the MSF ship entered the hold of a ship to find 52 people dead, asphyxiated, the answer to whether we have done enough is clear. 

.@alicriadoperez tells #CPC16 - how @MSF_Sea found 52 asphyxiated people on a boat that was crossing the Mediterranean #refugeecrisis pic.twitter.com/2prGQhRZ28

— Lucy Wake (@lucywake) October 4, 2016

We heard from a panel of MPs as to what the UK government’s response should be. Alex Chalk MP explained how the refugee crisis was such an important issue for his constituents. In the face of this crisis he talked about the work the UK was doing in Syria and the surrounding region, and the £2.3 billion in humanitarian aid and the importance of family reunion.

Caroline Spelman explained her work with faith groups and business across the UK working on community sponsorship. She made clear that being resettled to the UK as a refugee means more than having just a roof over ones head but was also importantly about integration and support. She urged us all to step up to make refugees welcome across the UK.

David Burrowes noted how heartening it was to see how many events at conference were on refugees. He described his recent visit to Calais and the conditions he described as desolate and desperate, adding we should hang our heads in shame. He also warned of a two-tier system being created for refugees. One he was wholehearted against as there are no good and bad refugees.

Quite striking the number of people in the audience who have been to Calais or Lesvos as volunteers #cpc16

— Refugee Council (@refugeecouncil) October 4, 2016

It was a well attended event with lots of challenging questions. What was most heartening though is how many of those who asked questions from the floor, not only quizzed the panel but also described how their council is supporting refugees or how they have been to Calais and Greece to help the refugees themselves.

So have we done enough? No… not yet. But we should be proud of the time and sacrifices people make up and down our country to support refugees; from Cleckheaton Refugee Crisis Appeal to the Refugee Community Kitchen and the Women’s Institute’s Shoreditch Sisters. Together we are powerful and we can make those who have fled the unimaginable feel more at home on our shores and appreciate what they can bring us in return.

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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.
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