David Cameron’s limited promise of only 4,000 places a year for Syrian refugees provides a glimpse of the impotence of Britain’s future role in world affairs outside the EU.
His Commons promise to take 20,000 Syrian refugees over the next five years is at the bottom end of expectations. It stands in sharp contrast to the French pledge of 24,000 places over the next two years. As the Labour MP and father of the house, Gerald Kaufman, angrily pointed out: “The Germans took in 10,000 refugees in one day.”
Cameron has deliberately spurned taking part in a much bigger EU scheme to resettle those in the camps in countries neighbouring Syria. He has also rejected playing any part in the expected EU request this week to relocate the estimated 160,000 refugees who have made it across the Mediterranean to Italy and Greece or through the Balkans to Hungary.
With more than 4 million Syrians already living in UN camps in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey it is hard to see how Britain’s own-brand resettlement scheme can make any significant difference to the situation.
It will undoubtedly make a world of difference to the few thousand who are lucky enough to be named each year by a British official as among the most deserving of sanctuary in the UK. But all the signs are that Cameron is set to repeat the same mistakes made when the UK’s vulnerable persons relocation scheme, as it is officially known, was set up in January last year.
In his Commons statement, Cameron made much of how Britain did not need to take part in the EU’s programmes to provide international protection, saying they could only operate within the Schengen border-free zone.
But as Ireland, which also has an exemption from EU asylum programmes, has shown by volunteering to take 1,800 Syrian refugees over the next two years, it is perfectly possible to take part in that coordinated European response if Cameron wanted to.
The UNHCR has called for an end to Europe’s fragmented response to the refugee crisis. France and Germany seem to recognise that a joint European approach is the only way to match the scale of that crisis. In a key test of European solidarity, when Germany is saying it cannot be expected to act alone, Britain has decided once again to sit it out on the sidelines.
As the French president, Francois Hollande, put it on Monday: “It’s true that Britain is not in the Schengen area … but that doesn’t absolve it from making an effort in terms of solidarity,” making clear there would be a price to be paid when Britain in turn demands ‘solidarity’ over reform of the EU.
Refugees and migrants take part in a protest demanding the authorities to let them go to Athens and continue their trip towards Northern Europe, at the port of Mytilene, on the northeastern Greek island of Lesbos, on Saturday, Sept. 5, 2015. Earlier many of them confronted the police as they attempted to get onboard a ship bound to Athens’ port of Piraeus. (Santi Palacios/Associated Press)
By Associated Press September 6 at 6:32 AM
BERLIN — The latest news as countries across Europe cope with the arrival of thousands of migrants and refugees. All times local (CET):
Pope Francis is asking faithful throughout Europe to shelter refugees fleeing “death from war and hunger.”
Francis said Sunday that the Vatican’s two parishes are taking in two families of refugees. He gave no details as he addressed tens of thousands of people in St. Peter’s Square.
Francis said it’s not enough to say, “Have courage, hang in there,” to the hundreds of thousands of refugees who are on the march toward what he called “life’s hope.”
He called on every Catholic parish, convent, monastery and sanctuary in Europe to shelter a family, and asked bishops throughout Europe to urge their dioceses to do the same.
Israel’s prime minister says his country is not indifferent to the plight of migrants and refugees flooding Europe, but that Israel is too vulnerable to absorb them.
Benjamin Netanyahu bemoaned the “human tragedy” of the victims of Syria’s civil war and said Israel has aided them in various ways. But he added that Israel is too small a country, both geographically and demographically, to provide a haven for a large influx of migrants.
Israel runs a field hospital on its border with Syria and has taken in wounded Syrians, but has stopped short of opening the borders to its longtime enemy.
Israel’s opposition leader Isaac Herzog says the country should take in a limited number of Syrian asylum seekers amid the current refugee crisis in Europe.
Authorities in Cyprus say they have rescued 114 people believed to be refugees fleeing war-torn Syria after their fishing boat issued a distress call some 46 miles (74 kilometers) off the east Mediterranean island nation’s southern coast.
Cyprus police said Sunday that all 114 people, including Palestinians from Syria, are in good health. They include 19 women, 30 children, 5 infants and 60 men.
A merchant vessel notified Cyprus’ Search and Rescue Center late Saturday that the refugees’ 60-foot (18-meter) fishing boat was in trouble.
The refugees were transferred to the southern port of Larnaca for health and identity checks.
Police said three men, including a 28-year-old believed to be the boat’s captain, have been arrested and are being questioned.
French mayors are offering to house refugees amid increasing concern for Syrians and others fleeing war and seeking haven in Europe.
French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said in a statement Sunday that several dozen mayors have offered to help in recent days, and convened a national meeting to organize refugee housing on Sept. 12.
France is trying to speed up the process for seeking asylum and to better welcome refugees, as the numbers coming to Europe this year have soared. Many asylum seekers in France have no place to live and sleep in make-shift camps, from Paris to Calais.
A grassroots French group arranging private housing for refugees has also seen a spike in offers in recent days, after the widely viewed photo of a drowned Syrian boy helped raise public awareness.
On the Greek island of Lesbos, police have used batons to beat back a demonstration by some 300 migrants chanting “Athena, Athena” as they tried to come out of the port area. Several of the protesters were injured in the clash, with one taken away unconscious by an ambulance.
The migrants, mostly Syrians, Iraqis and Afghans, say that local authorities on the Aegean island are not processing them quickly enough so they can continue their journey to western Europe. They also complain that authorities on Lesbos are not offering them any help and that they are fast running out of money.
The clashes early Sunday were the third in as many days between migrants and police. The demonstration on Sunday was led by Afghans.
Thousands of migrants and refugees have arrived by train and bus in cities across Germany overnight.
Police say a special train with 570 people on board arrived in the Thuringian town of Saalfeld late Saturday. More than half of them were taken onward to Dresden, where a school for German army officers has been cleared to provide temporary shelter for 350 newcomers.
Trains also took migrants to Hamburg in the north and Dortmund in the west of the country, while buses brought more than 300 people to the capital Berlin.
Thousands more people, mainly Syrians, Iraqis and Afghans fleeing war and persecution, are expected to arrive in Germany and Austria from Hungary on Sunday.
The refugees were allowed to leave Hungary Saturday after the country opened its borders with Austria.
When the skepticism began, he remained steadfast. “There is nothing to joke about !” he wrote. “I don’t joke on the misery of people
As live feeds of Syrian refugees walking out of Hungary have flooded the airwaves and pictures of drowned refugee children plaster social media, the response has been dramatic. In Iceland, 10,000 people offered to house Syrian families. Singer Bob Geldof announced he would let four families live in his homes. U.S. Senatorscalled on Congress to take in at least five times more refugees than the country currently allows.
Sawiris isn’t the first to propose such a seemingly outlandish idea, but his is the most singularly generous and bold so far. The telecommunications mogul is worth around $3 billion. In an interview with AFP, Sawiris estimated the cost of purchasing the island—$10 million to $100 million, he said—wouldn’t be a deterrent. The issue also isn’t supply, as there are numerous uninhabited islands in the Mediterranean. The main problem would be persuading the current owners to sell off a plot of land. Then he would target the bulk of needed investment into infrastructure, like “temporary shelters to house the people, then you start employing the people to build housing, schools, universities, hospitals,” he said.
Meanwhile, in June, a California real estate millionaire named Jason Buzi launched a plan for a “Refugee Nation.” He outlined (PDF) four options for resettlement: one involved purchasing island and another involved building a new island. “The solution is simple: for the millions of stateless people around the world—a state of their own!” it said.
His idea received mixed reactions. In theGuardian, Alexander Betts, with Oxford’s Refugee Studies Center, warned not to dismiss the innovation, but worried it could isolate refugees like a leprosy colony.
“You end up with refugees trapped forever in what is effectively large-scale prison camps,” James Hathaway, the director of University of Michigan’s Program in Refugee and Asylum, told the Washington Post, referring to Australia’s practice of holding refugees on the Pacific Islands.
“This proposal may be ridiculed or attacked by some, but hopefully is not ignored,” Buzi wrote. “It should be vigorously debated, because the world needs a solution to this staggering humanitarian crisis…But we can no longer sit idly by as millions of our fellow human beings suffer due to human-created conflicts.
Greece is struggling to assist the influx of needy refugees streaming across its borders by the thousands, exacerbated by its current financial crisis.
Refugees coming to the island of Kos were attacked by people with bats on Friday morning, according to Amnesty International. So far this year, 31,000 refugees have passed through Kos, which currently is hosting more than 3,000 in makeshift conditions. In August, 2,000 refugees were locked in the sports stadium.
In Lesbos, the number of Syrian refugees who have arrived in transit—around90,000 this year—is more than the island’s total local population. On Friday morning in Lesbos, where dinghies and boats have brought over thousands of refugees from Turkey, 200 Syrians threw stones at police who were keeping them from boarding a ship to the mainland.
The mayor of the island’s main town begged for more assistance. He said he’d been asking the national government for a state of emergency to be declared on the island but to no avail.
“[T]he situation has become unmanageable,” he told reporters.
In his interview with AFP, Naguib Sawiris, the Egyptian magnate who has the funds, imagined a place where the refugees would be treated once more as human beings.
“The way they are being treated now, they are being treated like cattle,” he said.