Many constituents share my dismay and anguish at the dreadful loss of life that continues among people fleeing persecution attempting to cross the Mediterranean. This is the worst humanitarian crisis to hit Europe since the Second World War and it is also a test of the British values of compassion and decency we hold so dear.
I am clear that the Government should be doing more to help Syrian refugees fleeing the civil war. There is sustained public concern about this issue.
As a result of this concerted pressure that in September last year the Prime Minister finally announced an additional 20,000 resettlement places in the UK for Syrian refugees to be taken from camps in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey over the next five years.
These plans, welcome as they are, do not match up to the scale or immediacy of the crisis. The British government resettled 1,000 refugees in the UK before Christmas, but I believe we could be doing even more still.
Five years may be too long for many vulnerable refugees who are living in camps. We should accept at least 20,000 refugees over the next two years, rather than five. We also should take in 3,000 vulnerable and unaccompanied children.
Although I think that it is right that we do not take part in any formal EU quota scheme, I would like to see the Prime Minister reach out to other European leaders and see that we take our fair share of those refugees already in Europe, particularly from the Southern European countries that are bearing the brunt of this crisis. We also need a properly co-ordinated humanitarian response across Europe to assess the status of all refugees and provide proper refugee support.
I will continue to follow this matter very carefully.