The political tension between the United Kingdom and the European leading powers continues to rise as the UK opts out of the proposed resettlement plan. The British government rejected the quota system, which entailed accepting 160,000 refugees who have already arrived on the continent’s shores. Instead, the country is developing its own program. The new plan is to distribute 20,000 refugees from camps surrounding Syria over five years, which amounts to 4,000 people per year. Not surprisingly, this plan has already brought on active debates in the UK, especially among the public. The people of the UK seem to be willing to accept more refugees, so now the question is whether the government is willing to do so.
The role of the UK in the Syrian refugee crisis, which has reached an epic scale, is rather disappointing considering its role in past events associated with granting asylum. For example, during the period between 1938 and 1940, the country accepted 10,000 Jewish children who were refugees from Nazi Germany over a period of 9 months. This rescue operation was informally named “Kindertransport,” which means “Children’s Transport” when translated from German. The memory of Kindertransport has been frequently mentioned by the people who disapprove of the new plan and they are calling on the UK to take in more refugees. According to the Washington Post, since the beginning of the conflict in Syria, only 216 refugees have been relocated to the UK. Another 5,000 asylum seekers have received some form of protection in the UK, although they arrived on their own. In contrast, the number of Syrian refugees taken in by other European countries easily exceeds the total number accepted into the UK.
Among the most active advocates regarding an increase in the number of refugees accepted into the UK is a Labour Party politician and the shadow Home Secretary, Yvette Cooper. Ms. Cooper emphasized that 20,000 people is just not enough for a refugee crisis of this scale.
“Britain must not turn its back on the refugee crisis in Europe. It is important that the Government has changed its mind and agreed to take refugees from the camps near Syria as a result of public pressure – however it isn’t enough to take refugees over five years when the crisis is now,” said Ms. Cooper according to the Express.co.uk.
Meanwhile, the Washington Post reported that Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann has warned that “Britain won’t get what it wants on other European matters if it refuses to cooperate on this one”, noting that “solidarity is not a one-way street.” By “other European matters,” the Chancellor is likely making a reference to Britain’s membership in the European Union, particularly Prime Minister Cameron’s attempts to renegotiate its terms in advance of the referendum. It is certainly questionable that the UK seems to require an incentive or something in return to be forced into assisting with a crisis that has reached an international scale. With that said, despite the fact that the UK is farther from Syria in comparison to other European countries, it does not mean that the crisis will not directly affect the UK in the long-term. Unfortunately, the UK is not the only state that has refused to share responsibilities with the other EU states. As such, it is high time to realize that the days where each state was limited to bearing the responsibility for its own affairs have long passed.
Heffer, Greg, Tom Batchelor and Tom Parfit. (2015). MPs prepare for emergency refugee debate as Labour says 20,000 migrants ‘not enough’. [online] Express.co.uk. Available at: //www.express.co.uk/news/uk/603464/David-Cameron-refugees-Syria-civil-war-Aylan-Kurdi-George-Osborne [Accessed 2 Oct. 2015].
Witte, Griff. (2015). As Europe fills with refugees, Britain goes its own way. [online] The Washington Post. Available at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/as-europe-fills-with-refugees-britain-goes-its-own-way/2015/10/01/c6793afe-6305-11e5-8475-781cc9851652_story.html [Accessed 2 Oct. 2015].