The ‘migrant crisis’ continues to dominate the headlines. The Prime Minister has argued that ‘bringing peace and stability’ to Syria and the region needs to be the focus for the UK’s efforts. Working towards this is surely right, but it doesn’t answer the pressing needs of those seeking asylum now.
United Nations figures show that the UK receives far fewer asylum applications than many other countries. In 2014 the UK received less than 40,000, compared to over 70,000 for Sweden, over 80,000 for Turkey and well over 150,000 for Germany. Crucially, the biggest driver for migration continues to be conflict, notably in Syria and Afghanistan.
In recent years, the government has spent £900m on aid in Syria and the region, while almost 5,000 Syrians have been granted asylum here in the last four years. This is to be welcomed. But we need to recognise our on-going responsibility in responding to this very human crisis for two reasons. First, a humanitarian concern for those risking so much to seek a new start. Talk of the ‘migrant crisis’ can put the blame on those seeking asylum and turn attention away from the desperate situations faced by those seeking a new life. Secondly, much of the current instability is, in no small part, the result of policies actively pursued by the UK and its allies. We need to have the moral courage not to walk away from the consequences of our own actions and, accepting our part in the creation of the current crisis, play a full part in responding to it.
The Revd Canon Dr Andrew Braddock, Director of the Department of Mission and Ministry and Canon Residentiary, Gloucester Cathedral