Gary's News and views

Gary Streeter MP for South West Devon

Gary writes a weekly article which appears in the Plympton Plymstock and Ivybridge News in South West Devon. The articles are published here.


Thursday, 10 September 2015


The outpouring of support across Europe for refugees from the appalling civil war in Syria is heart-warming. As is often the case, a general, growing, underlying feeling can be turned into an eruption of passion by a single image as was the case with the pictures of the tragically drowned Syrian boy washed up on the Turkish coastline.

It is good that people are responding with their hearts. I welcome the leadership given by the church, with pope and other denominational leaders calling for a humanitarian response. The command to love your neighbour means whoever we come across in need. These people are in need and we are coming across them. 

But governments must respond with both hearts and head. Here are some of the gritty questions that policy makers must consider:

1)    Should we treat refugees from a civil war zone the same as refugees from poverty or corruption? The majority of the people we have seen on our TV screens recently are from Syria, but many are from Eritrea, Nigeria and Libya.

2)    Should we treat genuine asylum seekers in the same way as people who (very understandably) want a better life, namely economic migrants? Should they all be allowed into European countries also? The combined populations of the four countries mentioned above exceeds 200 million. Who is sifting the current wave of refugees to determine their status? How do we know that ISIS are not sending would-be terrorists to European capitals disguised as refugees?

3)    Should we abandon the international convention that refugees should claim asylum in the first safe country they come to? Does this not at least provide some kind of framework enabling resources to be invested in those hotspot countries?

4)    When the cameras have moved on and the outburst of public emotion has waned, what impact on social cohesion will be caused by a large influx of refugees? Will the entry of so many from different cultures further stoke the nationalistic fervour that decimated Europe in the last century?

5)    Can the EU and the International Community act in a more and co-ordinated and urgent manner to tackle these problems at source?

I welcome the decision this week to take more refugees from Syria. I welcome the decision to use the Aid budget to assist. People are attracted to Western Europe because of our hard won, democratic framework of values. We must not to let our hearts rule our heads.

posted by Gary @ 09:26