Sunday, 6 September 2015

The Syrian Refugee Crisis

Opperman is not a traditional Northumberland name. I write as someone whose family were migrants over a hundred years ago. Recently, we have all been all to aware of the plight of refugees fleeing the civil war in Syria. The news and images are heartrending.

In the last year we received 25,000 applications for asylum in the UK, 2,200 of these were from Syria.

From the beginning of the Syrian crisis in 2011 to the second quarter of 2015, the UK has granted asylum to just under 5,000 Syrians.
My journey to the Syrian region:
I am very well aware of the humanitarian crisis that is ongoing in both Syria itself and its neighbouring countries. I have travelled through the region over the last 7 years, and last year spent some time helping at the Nizip 2 refugee camp on the Turkey-Syria border, where I met and spoke to refugees themselves as well as representatives of Unicef, the Foreign & Commonwealth Office and Syrian opposition leaders.

Details of that trip are here:
and as reported here:

Raising the plight of the refugees in parliament:

Subsequently, I raised the issue in parliament on several occasions and held a specific debate in parliament on the plight of Syrian Refugees and UN Resolution 2139 relating to the provision of aid in Syria itself, and the reluctance of the UN to do more, and the need for greater support in country:

The UK record and approach to aid:

Our record on aid to the region is second to none, and has been strong under successive governments. The UK Government believes that providing aid to the refugees in the region is vital and is spending £900m split between Syria, Lebanon and Jordan, which is providing, in particular, food rations and access to clean water; the UK is the second-largest bilateral donor to the refugee crisis facing the region.

The immigrant numbers to the UK:

Syrians have been claiming asylum in the UK, and over 85% of applications are granted; almost 5,000 Syrians have been granted asylum in the UK since the start of the humanitarian crisis. 85% of initial asylum decisions for Syrian refugees gave permission to stay in the UK. There is also the vulnerable persons programme for severely injured Syrians who require complex and specialist assistance, that is impossible to provide locally.

Please be assured that the Government will continue to play a leading role in formulating a plan to deal with this situation and will continue to support humanitarian aid both within Syria itself and in its neighbouring countries who are sheltering the vast majority of those fleeing Syria. The latest BBC update on the governments approach can be found here:

However, there are not simple solutions to this crisis.

Military interventions to preserve nation states / combat terror organisations:

The real difficult issue for all of us to grapple with is our approach to UK/UN  involvement in the prevention of the decline of nations and the rise of wider terrorism such as ISIS.

Clearly the interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan have left an impact, and have strongly reduced the desire of the general public to put our soldiers and airmen in harms way in foreign lands; but we in the UK and the wider UN countries will need to address this at some stage soon. Should we in the west be doing more to prevent the utter destruction of Syria?

How we approach these conflicts is going to be have to be reviewed, at some stage in the next 12 months. More particularly, we are going to have to acknowledge that in order to keep the peace in foreign lands and allow Syrians for example, to live in peace in Syria, what are we as a nation prepared to do?