It’s our moral obligation
15 September 2015
In the Scottish Parliament today we will use a debate to call for action in response to the refugee crisis.
This will include calling for Scotland’s ‘fair share’ of refugees to be accommodated to increase to 2,000.
This is what our Spokesperson for Democracy Claire Baker has said ahead of the debate today:
“Following Labour’s calls for Britain to take at least 10,000 refugees I was pleased to see the Scottish Government confirm that they were willing to take 1,000 as their ‘fair share’ and that this was a starting point and not a cap.
“Now that the UK Government has confirmed that they will take 20,000, Scotland’s fair share must now rise to at least 2,000.
“Scotland has led the UK in our reaction to the refugee crisis; we must continue to do so.
“The Scottish Government must use today’s debate to confirm that they are still willing to take our fair share of refugees.”
And we will go further. Scotland should not simply welcome refugees, but help build a future for them and their country.
We will encourage others to adopt a scheme by Glasgow University to support refugee students.
On recognising the lost opportunities for refugees, and the scheme at Glasgow University, Claire Baker said:
“Settling on a number of refugees to be welcomed in Scotland is only the beginning. We must look into how we rebuild their lives and help them to build a future.
“Glasgow University must be congratulated for the action they are taking in supporting refugee students by offering fee waivers. They have also extended their Talent Scholarship scheme and are accommodating two Syrian academics as PhD students.
“This must encourage other universities, colleges and businesses to follow suit. Studies have been disrupted, jobs and trades lost and careers halted by this crisis. We must tackle these issues at home as well as in Syria.
“This isn’t just about recognising strengths; it’s about the world we live in today. Scotland can provide more than sanctuary for refugees - we can help build the foundations for care in communities in the Middle East for decades to come.”
We have a moral obligation to extend help to those who risk their lives making this dangerous journey to Europe in order to seek safety. Commenting on the UK Government’s proposals Claire said:
“I am also pleased that the UK Government has finally promised to meet what I believe to be our moral obligation to accommodate more refugees in Britain. However, 20,000 refugees over the course of the UK Parliament, whilst welcome, is not enough.
“Our moral obligation must extend to help those that have felt it appropriate to risk their lives in making the dangerous journey to Europe.
“This includes 3,000 unaccompanied children. 3,000 children without a mother or father. There can be no argument, political or moral, that concludes that these children do not deserve our help simply because they made – and survived – the gruelling, life-threatening trip to Europe.
“History has shown that Britain has been ready and willing to act in the past. In the lead up to the Second World War, 10,000 Jewish children arrived in the country. This was the right thing to do then. With 3,000 unaccompanied children in Europe now, it is the right thing to do again. We must ensure that when history looks back on this point in time it does not find Britain wanting.
“This is a UK Government that moves only under pressure. The increase in the number of refugees to 20,000 came - not in the immediate aftermath of the picture of Aylan - but only when it became apparent that his picture on the front page of almost every newspaper had changed the mood of the country.
“This, with pressure from the opposition, is what caused the Government’s U-turn. On the refugee crisis the UK Government has been reacting rather than leading. It is therefore important that we, as a Parliament, should not stop applying pressure on Downing Street.”
Helping those fleeing persecution is part of the tradition of the Labour movement. We will not let this time be any different and will continue to call on the Scottish and UK governments to do more. We’ve also been mobilising the full campaigning power of Scottish Labour to help donate vital aid to the refugee crisis and Scottish Labour led councils across the country are committing to action to support refugees.