Yes/No: Should the UK take in more refugees?

Yes – Amara Barrett-Willett

The refugee crisis can be looked at two ways: morally and practically. In both ways the UK’s pathetic promise to take in 20,000 refugees over 5 years is shit.

My dad came to the UK in 1986. He left Sudan a year earlier due to a second civil war that divided the country in two. When your country, home and everything you’ve ever known is no longer safe, there are relatively few options available to you. My dad saw the UK as a big, shiny beacon of fun, democracy, pissy weather and chips. Similarly, the floods of refugees fleeing regions that have been unstable for decades are coming for the same thing: stability and safety. Morally it’s unacceptable for the UK to watch on while this happens again.

This isn’t a ‘save the world’, ‘one love’ hippy nonsense argument either, it is genuinely within the capability of the UK to help way more people than the government is currently claiming. The Conservatives’ slow and useless current approach is stupid and wrong. The last refugee crisis of this scale in Europe was the breakup of Yugoslavia – back then, the UK took over 75,000 refugees a year for three years. The UK could easily take up to 320,000 refugees over the next 5 years. The argument that it’s not actually possible for the UK to take more is a lie, and a bad lie at that.

As for people smugglers, they’re terrible. However, they work wonderfully when you’re defending the fact that you’re doing as little as possible in a worldwide humanitarian crisis. People smugglers, human traffickers and greedy people looking to profit off the fear of others are sadly a necessary evil for refugees looking to somewhat safely leave a country. To this day, my dad still prays for the traffickers that smuggled him and his sister across the Sudanese border into Egypt. Allowing more people into the UK will not encourage an increase in the activity of traffickers and smugglers. Their activities will continue as long as there are still civilians trapped in a collapsed state who only want safety.

It’s argued that allowing more refugees into the UK will encourage more people to take the dangerous journey to Europe. This is bullshit. I can promise you, these people risking their lives to not fear death or persecution around every corner will come as long as conflicts last in their home countries and states. These are people who would rather their child lose their life trying to make it to safety than have them brutalised in their own nation. Safety and relief is not achieved through patiently waiting in approved refugee camps, you’ve got to go and get it no matter the consequences.

Of course we need to take more refugees; it’s morally wrong not to. But regardless of what the government signs the UK up to do, there are still plenty of things we can do as students of the University of York to help the cause.

No – Thomas Turton

Let me start by saying that I wholeheartedly agree with the Government’s current policy of accepting 20,000 refugees from Lebanese and Jordanian refugee camps by the end of 2020. This is compassionate and the right thing to do. Now, while I agree that the UK should show compassion for people who are fleeing war-torn Syria, we do need (as hard as it may be) to think with a clear head when responding to the crisis.

The only people who have benefited from the “come one, come all” approach of Angela Merkel have been people traffickers, those whom would prey upon the desperate in order to make money. Not only has the promise to settle all asylum seekers in Germany encouraged people to make a perilous journey across the Mediterranean and Aegean seas, hence being potentially responsible for more drownings, the fact that Merkel then promptly reversed her policy led to many refugees being trapped between a country that would not accept them and a homeland they could not go back to. Moral of the story: if you say that we should accept everyone that comes, illegally or not, you’d best mean it, or you’ll only cause more suffering in the end.

Now back to how the UK should respond. We don’t want to encourage more people to make perilous journeys, hence we should only accept people from the camps around Lebanon, Jordan and Israel. To do otherwise would be recklessly endangering the lives of refugees and lead to more Alyan Kurdis. We also do not want to give any incentives to refugees to pay people traffickers to get to the UK. It’s also worth noting that while I sympathise with the situation of those who are leaving their home due to poverty, if they are not fleeing war or persecution, they do not qualify as refugees under the UN Convention for Human Rights for Refugees (Under Article 1 of the UNHCR A/2).These people qualify as economic migrants, not as refugees, and should be treated accordingly.

Ultimately this mass exodus of people is only a symptom of a specific problem which is of course the Syrian conflict, and UN backed military intervention in Syria is the only real solution. This means establishing a UN controlled safe zone in Syria. This would ensure that refugees would not have to travel as far from their homes, avoiding the risks of drowning and exploitation that come with travelling to Europe.

One final point to make is that our asylum process is already diabolically slow and in violation of the UNHCR on many counts, mainly due to cutbacks which have led to under-staffing. Our asylum caseworkers and immigration officers are stretched to their limit with the tens of thousands of asylum applications a year they already process, and to process too many asylum applications without looking at how many we can logistically cope with will only lead to further suffering of refugees. While we of course should show compassion in response to the crisis, we also need to be sensible and act in a way that will both alleviate human suffering and prevent loss of life.