Sunday 29 December 2013

Farage calls for UK to take in Syrian refugees

Nigel Farage has called for the UK to take in some refugees from the civil war in Syria.

According to the BBC there are an estimated 9m Syrian refugees and there has been agreement to house only 12,000 of them in various countries.  The Labour Party says it wants to accept between 400 and 500 refugees, the Tories and Lib Dems want to accept none and throw hundreds of millions of taxpayers' money at the problem instead.

Farage's comments have attracted both criticism and support from members and supporters. Most of the criticism seems to stem from a misunderstanding of what a refugee is. Refugees are not economic migrants looking for a better life in another country, nor are they people fleeing persecution wanting to settle in another country. Refugees are people forced to leave their homes because their lives are at risk who are expected to go home when it is safe to do so.

Some people have questioned the practicality or sense in accepting Syrian refugees when we are already short of houses, jobs and money and a popular suggestion is that they are sent to Saudi Arabia or another of Syria's Arab neighbours.

Refugees - like asylum seekers - can't work so they won't be taking jobs off people. I would expect them to go to a refugee camp and remain there for the duration of their stay (and by refugee camp I mean something like a disused industrial estate, not a tent city in some fields). They wouldn't be taking houses or jobs off people already living here because they would be living in the refugee camp and they wouldn't be working.

The British government has already pledged £525m in aid for Syria and has promised to give more to help the UN raise £4bn for Syrian refugees so there is clearly money available to help them. Rather than give that money to the UN or an aid charity that will eat up a big chunk of it in administration costs and wages, let's bring some refugees over here and give them what they need ourselves.

Sending Syrian refugees to neighbouring countries risks spreading the conflict to the wider Middle East and increases the risk of vulnerable people being radicalised.

Of course, it's highly likely that some of the refugees would claim asylum when the time came to go home but that's no more likely than would happen if they weren't already here as refugees. Being a refugee doesn't make you any more likely to be a successful asylum seeker - in fact it probably makes you less likely to be successful because your refugee status ends when your host nation's government deems your home country to be safe.

Nigel Farage has put UKIP's humanitarian credentials on the table for all to see today. While the LibLabCon want to throw money at the problem and at best allow a token handful of refugees to seek safety here, UKIP is saying that we should honour our moral and legal obligations to provide temporary safe refuge to people whose lives are in danger in their own country. Some UKIP members and supporters will be unhappy with this announcement but such is life. We are a broad church in UKIP and if you can't tolerate the party having policies you disagree with then you're going to be sadly disappointed wherever you make your political home.