After a year-long inquiry, the Home Affairs Committee says EU action to address a crisis it should have foreseen has been “too little, too late”, with the EU-Turkey agreement a partial solution at best which raises serious humanitarian, human rights, logistical and legal concerns.
Humanitarian and security issues require immediate action and resources
Syrian refugees resettled by Local Authorities
The report publishes for the first time the number of Syrian refugees resettled in each local authority area. These figures show many Local Authorities (LAs) are not pulling their weight in resettling Syrian refugees, and there is scant evidence that the Government is on track to meet its commitment to resettle 20,000 Syrians by 2020. The Committee says Ministers should show leadership by encouraging their own constituency LAs to take refugees.
Unprecedented numbers arriving to Europe
The current numbers of people seeking to move into Europe are “unprecedented in modern times”. The Archbishop of Canterbury has described the scale of the crisis as “colossal”.
There were 1,255,640 first-time applications for asylum in EU member states in 2015, double the 562,680 in 2014, with over half of these from ongoing war-torn countries Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. Contrary to popular perceptions, only 3.1% of these were in the UK, and in January 2016, 55% of the irregular migrants arriving in the EU were women and children.
In the context of the current intense security threats to EU countries, it is clearly in the interest of all EU countries for there to be effective security checks at EU external borders. The UK’s own measures since the Paris attacks are welcome, but no country can protect its borders alone. The UK and others need their European neighbours, and the countries on the EU external borders, to take equally rigorous steps.
Smaller ports are now being used by criminal gangs to move people between the Continent and the UK. UK Border Force has been given a key role in implementing strengthened coastal security measures but it is clearly under-resourced, with the number of Border Force vessels in operation worryingly low. Royal Navy vessels should be made available to Border Force to make up for shortfalls, where necessary.
Le Touquet agreement
The reported post-Brexit calls to end the Le Touquet agreement and effectively move the Calais Jungle to English shores are counterproductive and not in the interests of France or England: “those involved in terrorism and criminal gangs do not respect borders and both countries need to be vigilant in confronting these ever-present threats”. Maintaining the Le Touquet agreement must be a priority for the UK Government.