Victoria Atkins MP speaks on Syrian Resettlement

Like the many of my constituents who have contacted me on this matter, I am deeply troubled by the unfolding humanitarian crisis in Syria. As a mother I found the recent pictures in the media very affecting and I support the government in its efforts to relieve such suffering.

Britain is a moral nation and we will fulfil our moral responsibilities. That is why we sent the Royal Navy to the Mediterranean, saving thousands of lives; why Britain is the second biggest bilateral donor in the world to Syrian refugee camps; and why, since the crisis began, we have granted asylum to nearly 5,000 Syrians and their dependents through normal procedures.

Last week, the Prime Minister announced that Britain should resettle up to a further 20,000 Syrian refugees over the next five years. These refugees will come straight from the camps in the Middle East to discourage refugees from taking the perilous journey across the Mediterranean.

It is a genuinely compassionate response to help people near their homes. We must have an eye to the future: Syria will need its brightest and its best when the time comes to re-build the country. By helping people near their homes, we are maximising the chances of that happening.

The United Kingdom, or even Europe, cannot possibly absorb all the people in Syria and the many other areas of the world where there is conflict. For example, Syria has over 11 million displaced persons. This is why we must not look to the next 5 months, or even 5 years. We must look to the long term future of the Syrian people, and this can only be secured by working to help Syrians return to their homes and begin building the next chapter of their Nation’s history.

To support our local communities we will use the foreign aid budget to finance these refugees for the first year and help local councils with things like housing. Any measures to re-home refugees must be in keeping with what can be managed locally in terms of resources and services. In the longer term, we will continue to direct our additional aid spending to these failed states and to the refugee crisis.

Here in Louth & Horncastle discussions have begun at local level to determine what assistance we are able to offer should we be called upon to do so. I will be working with East Lindsey District Council Councillor Craig Leyland and others to ensure that Lincolnshire contributes to the national effort to offer sanctuary in a reasonable and sustainable way.

We must also distinguish between genuine refugees fleeing for their lives and economic migrants. For economic migrants who do not have a genuine claim, we must break the link between embarking on this perilous journey and settling in Europe.

We need a comprehensive solution that deals with those responsible for the problem at its source: President Assad and so-called ISIL. We must also continue our work to avoid anyone being exploited by the criminal gangs who run this terrible trade in people.

I am glad that the Prime Minister has been clear that the aim is to resettle 1,000 refugees by Christmas. The Government will report back after Christmas to assess how many refugees have come.

I recently spoke in the House of Commons Chamber addressing this issue. The full text of my speech is here:

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201516/cmhansrd/cm150909/debtext/150909-0002.htm#15090936000525