UK MEPs urge Cameron to join EU-wide response to refugee crisis

UK government's response to the refugee crisis dismissed as weak and unfair by MEPs.

By William Louch

09 Sep 2015

A group of 14 UK MEPs have today written an open letter to UK Prime Minister David Cameron, urging him to join an EU-wide response to address the current refugee crisis.

The calls follow European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker's state of the union speech in which he outlined proposals to relocate 120,000 refugees from Italy, Greece and Hungary, on top of the 40,000 already offered refuge.

Juncker said that the refugee crisis must be Europe's top priority, calling for "concerted action by the EU, its member states and its institutions." He stressed the need for a coherent strategy across all 28 member states, saying we need "more Europe in our asylum policy and more union in our refugee policy."


According to the proposal, over the next two years France would take in around 24,000 refugees, Germany 31,000, Spain 15,000 and Poland 9,000.

The UK, so far, has refused to involve itself in any EU-led settlement scheme. Cameron, while accepting the UK has a "moral responsibility" to refugees affected by the crisis, has offered a limited response.

He has pledged to accept up to 20,000 refugees over the course of the next five years.  However, even this comes with strings attached. Controversially, the government has confirmed it will deport refugee children when they reach 18 and it will only accept refugees from camps in Syria, Jordan and Turkey.

Cameron's proposals pale in comparison to efforts of other European countries. In the last week alone, Germany has processed over 18,000 people, with France accepting 24,000 over two years as oppose to the UK's 20,000 five.

The MEPs letter is strongly critical of Cameron.

It states, "we are ashamed of the Government’s weak stance on the current refugee crisis" and describes Britain's uncooperative approach as something that "will ensure that this humanitarian disaster haunts our consciences in the months and years to come."

The MEPs who coordinated the letter offered their own responses.

Catherine Bearder, an MEP for Parliament's Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe group, said, "our partners in the EU are exasperated by David Cameron's stubborn refusal to take part in a collective European response to this crisis.

"By refusing to take in a single refugee that has arrived on Europe's shores, the UK government is shirking our international duty and lowering Britain's standing in the world.

"Of course we must do more to tackle the causes of the refugee crisis at source, but we cannot turn a blind eye to the human tragedy unfolding right now on our continent."

Keith Taylor, MEP for the Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance, highlights the disconnect between the political response and the public's reaction, stating, "David Cameron’s offer to take in 4000 refugees a year from established camps fails to meaningfully address the current crisis. There is a momentous population shift which he seems intent on ignoring.

"Signing up to the EU’s migration quotas would be a much fairer and more accurate approach to take."

This letter is unlikely to find support from fellow UK MEP Nigel Farage. He said in his reaction to Juncker's state of the union speech that unless the UK is given back full control over its borders the UK will "vote to leave" in the upcoming EU referendum.

Below is a list of the MEPs who signed the letter:

Keith Taylor, Green Party MEP

Catherine Bearder, Liberal Democrat MEP

Molly Scott Cato, Green Party MEP

Jean Lambert, Green Party MEP

Glenis Willmott, Leader of European Parliamentary Labour Party

Lucy Anderson, Labour Party MEP

Anneliese Dodds, Labour Party MEP

Mary Honeyball, Labour Party MEP

Jude Kirton-Darling Labour Party MEP

Catherine Stihler Labour Party MEP

Theresa Griffin, Labour Party MEP

Clare Moody, Labour Party MEP

Derek Vaughan, Labour Party MEP

Linda McAvan, Labour Party MEP

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