Refugees need safe and legal routes into Europe, say Southwark LibDems

Moves to ensure the UK government accepts a fairer share of refugees arriving in Europe from war-torn parts of the world have been adopted overwhelmingly by Liberal Democrats nationally after pressure from Southwark members.

At the Party’s autumn conference in Bournemouth last month, delegates agreed to update its refuges policy in light of the ongoing humanitarian crisis in countries such as Iraq, Syria, Somalia and Afghanistan. 

At least 500,000 refugees have arrived in Europe so far this year and almost 3,000 have died trying to make the journey.  Four million Syrians have fled the civil war in their homeland with neighbouring countries such as Lebanon and Turkey each offering shelter to over 1million Syrians.

Pressure from Southwark Liberal Democrats ensured that the Party has given a new commitment to accept a minimum of 10,000 refugees into the UK each year as part of a Europe-wide approach to help refugees seeking safety.  Southwark deputy group leader, Councillor David Noakes, seconded an amendment in the debate which was accepted and incorporated into the main motion.

Liberal Democrats are now calling for the United Kingdom to:

  • ensure more safe and legal routes for refugees to seek safety by significantly increasing the number resettled through the United Nations programmes.
  • introduce a simpler system for refugees to join relatives already living in safety here through United Nations programmes.
  • continue to advocate and contribute to the EU search and rescue operation in the Mediterranean to save the lives of those forced to make dangerous journeys.
  • tackle the root causes in the longer term of why people become refugees so that fewer people feel compelled to flee their homes.
  • re-affirm the UK’s international commitment to give protection to those fleeing war and persecution.

Southwark Liberal Democrat councillor David Noakes said:

“Conflicts and civil wars around the world have been going on for years almost unnoticed in Europe.  Now we have been forced to wake up to the horror people are suffering as they seek safety by travelling thousands of miles from their homes.

“The numbers are truly staggering with nearly four million refugees fleeing the ongoing conflict in Syria alone.  Yet, despite the picture painted by the media, the vast majority of refugees are hosted by neighbouring countries and only six per cent of Syrian refugees have sought safety in Europe.

“Europe must do more to help the increasing numbers of people attempting extremely dangerous journeys across the Mediterranean.  Nearly 3,000 people have died making the journey so far this year. 

“The UK government’s response has been inadequate with promises to help just 20,000 Syrians over the next five years and little detail on how boroughs like Southwark, which have offered to help find homes for Syrian refugees, will be supported financially.

“Both Britain and Southwark have a long and proud record of welcoming people in desperate need fleeing persecution or life-threatening situations.  Now is not the time to stand aside but stand together.  I was proud that the national party accepted Southwark Liberal Democrats’ proposal for the UK government to help at least 10,000 refugees each year.  We cannot allow Europe to build a fortress around itself and deny desperate people help.”