Julie Elliott MP

Standing up for Sunderland Central

Sunderland Echo Column

Summer is often a time of year when frivolous stories make their way into the newspapers and news headlines, with Parliament in recess and many people enjoying a well-earned break.

This summer has been quite different. None of us could have failed to be moved by the war in Syria, the refugee crisis in the wider Middle East, and the perilous, sometimes final journey many people have made over the last few months.

The image of Aylan Kurdi, the young Syrian boy who lay lifeless on a Turkish beach, has come to symbolise the consequences of the terrible risks people are taking to flee, and has finally galvanised our government into action.

A brutal civil war in Syria, now into its fifth year, turbulence in Libya and Iraq and continuing human rights abuses in Eritrea have led to a humanitarian crisis, and the largest movement of people across Europe since the Second World War.

Our response to this crisis should match the gravity of the moment.

I welcome the Government’s commitment to taking 20,000 refugees, but that figure over five years means that we could be welcoming just a few thousand people this year.

For those fleeing a country at war, without a home or even a parent, 2020 must feel a lifetime away.

Save the Children estimates that 3,000 unaccompanied children have arrived in Europe in recent months.

I have been contacted by many constituents who, like me, believe that as a nation we can and should be doing more.

Our efforts will not stop the fighting, but that is no reason to do nothing.

Taking in refugees will be a challenge. It will require great effort from government, local authorities, charities, businesses and communities.

But Britain has a proud, if not perfect history of giving people a safe place to call home when their own country no longer can. Surely we can do it again, providing a warm welcome and support for people to rebuild their lives.

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