North East Fife’s SNP MSP, Roderick Campbell, today asked the Scottish Government what it was doing to help refugees across Europe, in light of ongoing reports of thousands of people crossing Europe’s borders and recent, shocking photographs of children dying as they attempt to find a new home in Europe.
Following comments by the German and Austrian Governments condemning the UK Government for refusing to accept more asylum seekers – at a time when Germany expects to accept over 800,000 this year, compared to the 25,771 accepted by the UK in year ending June 2015 – Mr Campbell today condemned the UK Government for its “fortress Britannia” mentality and a complete lack of leadership.
In a passionate exchange at FMQs, Mr Campbell asked the First Minister what assistance the Scottish Government can provide the UK Government, to help the refugees.
In response, the First Minister described the UK Government’s refusal to participate in EU efforts to help refugees as “utterly shameful”, and implored the Prime Minister to “show some compassion”.
Commenting afterwards, Mr Campbell – who described the refugee crisis as the worst since the Second World War – said: “The refugee crisis in Europe is unlike any other in recent, living history. Every day, heart-breaking images appear of children separated from their families, or dead bodies washing up on beaches or being found in stranded vehicles, and all the while the UK Government has sat on its hands.
“The callous remarks made this week by the Prime Minister, that taking more refugees is not the answer to the crisis, are simply not good enough, and entirely inappropriate. I echo the First Minister’s comments today, imploring the UK Government to do more to help.
“It is time for the UK Government to take action on this issue. It is time the Tories listened to other European Governments, the EU, the UN and even their own backbenchers who are saying more must be done.
I welcome the First Minister’s pledge of the Scottish Government’s support to any UK, and EU, wide efforts to help refugees, as well as her efforts to encourage the UK Government to do more to help. Nobody should die needlessly, when trying to enter Europe and it is time for the UK to offer more help to those who need it most.”
Mr Campbell also cited a publicly led initiative from Iceland, where over 12,000 people signed up on Facebook to offer spare rooms to Syrian refugees and to encourage their Government to accept more refugees than the current cap of 50.
Speaking at First Minister’s Question Time, Nicola Sturgeon commented that the UK should follow the example set by many European countries, including Germany and Iceland.
She continued by saying that she would host a summit of humanitarian and civic organisations to look at what Scotland can do to support refugees who are seeking safety.
The First Minister also added, “I am determined that Scotland plays its full part but, for us to take refugees as I want us to do, the UK Government first has to agree to take its fair share, and I call on David Cameron to do so.
“This is not about immigration; it is about refuge and asylum, and we must respond as human beings. We simply cannot walk by on the other side; otherwise, that little boy, who we were all so touched by last night, will just become one of many, many more. We cannot and must not have that on our consciences.”
Speaking earlier in the week on Good Morning Scotland, the First Minister confirmed that she had previously written to the Prime Minister to offer assistance as part of any EU wide scheme to help look after refugees.
She also repeated that the Scottish Government had “consistently urged the UK Government to take a more humanitarian approach” to the crisis.
Just a fortnight ago the St Andrews Citizen reported on the plight of University student Haian Dhuka who had feared his family had been killed fleeing Palmyra in Syria after it came under the grip of ISIS.
He recently found out his elderly parents, sister and two brothers, one of whom is married and has two young children, had managed to make it to safety in Turkey but now have nothing.
He said: “Many people around my family lost their lives and just an hour after they evacuated their house was destroyed by bombing.”
Leaving the historic city of Palmyra was equally dangerous. Travelling through Turkey, they had to walk through the desert and forest at night and during the journey one of his brothers broke a leg.
“During the time we lost contact for a month and I wasn’t sure if they were alive,” Haian said.
Haian’s father was a teacher while his sister was studying for a chemistry degree and his brothers have lost their jobs.
Haian has since launched a fundraising campaign for his family.