Andrew Smith has called for the British Government to play a full and fair part in resettling those who have been forced to flee the extreme violence in Syria, as well as in searching for a resolution to the conflict, as well as helping refugees from other oppression and violence. He very much welcomes the public support for the refugees voiced locally and across the country.
This is the message Andrew conveyed to the well-supported demonstration in Oxford on Sunday 6th September:
Please convey a strong message of support and solidarity to the demonstration today. I am unable to be there because I was already committed to visiting a riding centre for local disabled children this afternoon.
I believe Britain has a clear moral duty to take significantly more refugees. I am heartened by the hundreds of emails and letters I have received from constituents urging the government to do more. I have received more representations on this in the last few days than on any other issue ever.
I have already written to the Prime Minister to take this up. A year ago I questioned in the Commons the criteria the government were using to admit Syrian refugees, and I campaigned for action to stop refugees drowning in the Mediterranean. We can and must do so much more to help our fellow human beings fleeing real horror and in need of sanctuary.
I will work with the City and County Council and local support organisations to ensure the people of Oxford can play our part in rising to this challenge, and providing the practical support refugees need. The plight of those fleeing terror and persecution touches our hearts, and demands action. With the strength of support being shown today, we can make a real difference, and bring hope and help where there was despair. Thank you all.
Andrew says: “I have pressed the need to provide sanctuary for more refugees with the Government on numerous occasions, and their response has been very disappointing, as I am sure you know. While the Prime Minister's announcement that the Government could accept up to 4,000 refugees a year is an improvement on the number accepted so far, it is a very small commitment compared with the need or with the much larger numbers of people Germany is taking.
I strongly welcome Yvette Cooper's call for each local authority to appeal for places for refugees, and I understand that my colleagues on Oxford City Council are already planning to take this up, as well as liaising with the County Council in respect of the particular needs of unaccompanied children.
You can be assured that I will continue to do all I can to ensure a more effective response to this massive humanitarian need.”
Andrew voted for the below motion, which was defeated bt 311 votes to 259 by Conservative MPs whipped to oppose it:
That this House recognises the funding the Government has committed to the humanitarian initiatives to provide sanctuary in camps for refugees across the Middle East; calls for a greater international effort through the United Nations to secure the position of such displaced people; recognises that the Government has committed to accepting 20,000 vulnerable people from camps in Syria over the next five years but calls for a Government report to be laid before the House by 12 October 2015 detailing how that number can be increased, encompassing refugees already in Europe and including a plan for the remainder of this year to reflect the overwhelming urgency of this humanitarian crisis; further notes that refugees arriving in European Union territory also have a moral and legal right to be treated properly; and, given the pressure on Southern European countries, further calls for the UK to play its full and proper role, in conjunction with European partners, in providing sanctuary to our fellow human beings.