- It's time to think of all refugee's and not just the one's that fill our TV screens (eg. 490,000 DRC refugees as well as others)
- It's time to recognise that some camps are good, others are not up to standard
- It's time to look at the best camps and the economics of helping as many people as possible.
- It's time to recognise that the overwhelming number of refugees do not want to come to western Europe and need our help
- Recognise that the refugee crisis cannot be wholly solved in Europe
In early 2015, graphic images of makeshift boats sinking in the Mediterranean shocked us all. Aboard were small children and their parents, many of whom undertook the perilous journey in the hope of safety and security for their families. Pictures of their bodies, washed up on the shores of Greek beaches, were met with a national outcry and prompted demands for the UK to take swift action.
But after a few months of frenzied outrage, the causes of the refugee crisis persist. Despite all the protestations, little has been done to address the roots of this humanitarian crisis. The focus continues to centre on resettlement programmes in European states, rather than more localised assistance in the countries from where refugees are fleeing.
Our concentration on the middle east is also our neglect of the 495,000 Congolese who have been stuck in camps in neighbouring countries for 20 years in some cases. A forgotten scandal which I have raised in the House of Commons.
On my visit to various camps it was clear the vast majority of refugee's do not want to flee afar but wish to remain close, hoping for a return and I believe our concerns have become distorted towards our own sympathies based on our consumption of mass media. We have forgotten about the masses, the many who choose to remain. I have been staggered to discover that there is no quality assessment of camps and no assessment of the economic cost of individual camps and no effort to establish a minimum condition or best practice response.
During the Tory’s party conference, I visited a Syrian refugee camp in Harran – south of the Turkish city of Urfa and directly north of the ISIS Syrian city of Raqqa. Built in 2012, it is known to be the most innovative refugee camp in the Middle East and can hold about 110,000 of Turkey’s 2.5 million refugees (750,000 of which live in camps). As well as meeting with Turkish politicians to discuss the global response to the refugee crisis, I was able to move around freely, visit the educational and social facilities and speak with refugees.
You can check the photos of my visit here. This is the school.
Below by comparison is the Khazar camp outside Mosul, Iraq.
I spoke with people at Harran. They did not want to come to western Europe, they felt safe and looked after. They wanted to go home when the fighting ended. They were content with the facilities and life at Harran. This is how all camps should be. It costs the Turkish government (according to the camps Chief Exec) $6.30 per day per refugee or $3,300 per year. It costs the UK government some £24,000 ($33,000) per refugee in the UK and there are real concerns about the dispersal programme and the ensuing quality of life they are being given. When is someone going to address not just the desires and needs of people in camps but the economics of Aid and migration? These are tough questions not being asked right now.
10x as many people are being helped at Harran as could be helped by resettlement.
My question to the Home Secretary in the House of Commons two week ago:
We talk about numbers, but surely the only measure that matters is whether a child is vulnerable. On the bigger picture, I have been lucky enough to visit seven internally displaced person and refugee camps. There is a disparity between those camps as some have very poor standards, whereas standards are high in others. The Government seem to be doing nothing to help the people in some of the poor camps. I have visited Harran camp, north of Raqqa, which is of a very high standard and provides good education, whereas some of the other camps are exceedingly poor. What are the Home Secretary and the Government doing to help the people living in these camps and to sort out this problem?By contrast, when I visited five Internally Displaced Person (IDP) camps in Northern Iraq, the infrastructure was of a much lower quality. They were just a fraction of the 98 IDP camps in Iraq, which accommodate 565,427 internally displaced persons due to Daesh violence. I also visited a refugee camp, hosting some of the 88,611 Syrians who had fled Assad. The camps accommodating Yazidi people were far less developed than those in Turkey, due huge funding disparities and Turkey’s significant spending levels on camps.
However, although the camps hosted refugees fleeing from two different sources of violence (Assad and Daesh), it soon became clear that all of the families wanted one wish: to return to their homes in peace. That is why there needs to be a greater focus on support on the borders of conflict, in areas to which families flee and wait for their other relatives.
European states have struggled to cope with an increased demand on housing stock, in response to resettlement programmes. But the relative high-quality conditions at Harran on the Turkish-Syrian border demonstrate that we can provide better and more decent temporary alternative accommodation for the majority of refugees who do not want to make the journey to the UK but instead want to return home as soon as possible. We can help more people and resolve the crisis in Europe. I do not believe that large migration programmes are the answer.
Greater funding should be given to camps on conflict borders. Turkey received little funding from UK and has spent $16billion on providing camps and supporting refugee's. Taking pressure off local authorities and municipalities which have been instructed to house asylum seekers.
What has ben missed in all of this is that Turkey has a long experience of providing such homes, having produced a large number during the Marmara Earthquake of 1999, and the EU would do well to support its efforts and as I asked, to ensure camps are of a decent standard as at Harran.