I’m sure you will be horrified, as I have been, by the images on the daily news reports of the unfolding humanitarian disaster that is growing across Europe with the increasing number of refugees seeking safety.
A number of weeks ago, spurred on by the horrific news that over 70 refugees had died in the back of a lorry, I put down a motion to Parliament on this issue for debate, this is now scheduled for Thursday, October 1, at 12.30.
In this motion I have been able to congratulate some local examples of Glasgow’s third sector; The Pollok Integration Network and Glasgow the Caring City, both in my Cathcart Constituency, for the aid they have provided, over many years for refugees and Glasgow’s asylum seeking community.
The motion also highlights the forced displacement and the spreading crisis into Europe from across Syria, Libya and Eritrea. We need to appreciate that the number of people reaching Europe is dwarfed by the numbers entering Jordan. I was struck by the comments from the Austrian Foreign Minister, commenting on the tragic deaths of those 70 asylum seekers in the back of a truck, that the tragedy beacons the need for a common policy with no opt outs by all EU member states to protect migrants.
My motion also goes on to comment that the EU’s response is lacklustre, to say the least, and, while welcoming the UK government’s belated decision to take a maximum of 20,000 refugees over five years, the UK’s position on this issue has been both morally bankrupt and untenable.
I call upon all countries across Europe to stand together and agree a common strategy to deal with this crisis, both in the Mediterranean and in Calais, and call on them to act on Chancellor Merkel and President Hollande’s suggestion of having this at the heart of discussions at the European Council meeting.
I conclude my motion by making a clear call to the UK government to join our European partners in contributing to a meaningful resettlement programme and take positive steps across the continent and to stop playing politics with the lives of so many people seeking refuge from suffering in their homelands.
The Scottish Government has established the Refugee Taskforce and stated that Scotland is ready to take 1,000 refugees. Indeed the Scottish Government has agreed to take a 10% share of the total number that finally settles in the UK. This is not a cap and it is not spread over five years.
I am proud of Scotland’s response to this crisis. Glasgow, as always, has stepped up to the plate without any prompting.
To highlight this, just a couple of weeks ago I contacted the Wheatley Group to ask if they would put out a plea to their staff to donate clothes the The Caring City, who were going to the Balkans to get aid to the refugees stranded there.
Within four days they had collected two ton of clothing and made a generous donation to assist with the funding of the aid convoy. That is Glasgow at its best.
My thanks goes out to all who have assisted, in any way, towards demonstrating that Scotland’s sense of humanity and continue to support those men, women and children who need our help like never before.