IAIN WRIGHT: Refugees aren’t after benefits - they’re fleeing for their lives

Refugees and migrants wait to pass the borders from the northern Greek village of Idomeni, to southern Macedonia.
Refugees and migrants wait to pass the borders from the northern Greek village of Idomeni, to southern Macedonia.

The news this week has been dominated by the refugee crisis.

The harrowing picture of a drowned three-year old Syrian boy, Aylan Kurdi, lying face down on a Turkish beach has shocked and upset the world.

Images can tell a story and change people’s perceptions in a way that words often can’t.

For people of a certain age, the picture of a terrified and crying nine year-old girl, Kim Phuc, running down a dirt track in the immediate aftermath of a napalm attack, showed all too clearly the horrors of the Vietnam War.

That image helped the acceleration of the withdrawal of American troops from South Vietnam.

Kim Phuc survived and is now a United Nations ambassador for peace.

The tragedy is that Aylan Kurdi died and that the potential and hope that exists for every three year old – full of promise and opportunity- has literally been drowned.

The horrible image of Aylan lying dead on a beach personifies a crisis, but the crisis is vast.

It is the biggest humanitarian crisis facing Europe since the Second World War.

Syria’s civil war has hit its civilian population in a brutal way.

Bashar al-Assad, the ruler of Syria, is targeting some of the population with chemical weapons.

Islamic State have taken over entire towns, ruling those areas with brute violence.

Fighting has left entire towns flattened.

Let’s be clear what’s happening: millions of people are not wanting to come to Britain because they fancy a cushy life on benefits.

They are fleeing for their lives and to protect the lives of their children.

They mostly end up in overcrowded camps in the likes of Turkey.

They have the choice of returning home, with possible violence, rape and death, or trying to escape to neighbouring countries, often paying criminal gangs to try to move them under the risk of suffocation in boats and lorries.

We are fortunate to live in a peaceful country, but put yourself in the shoes of those ordinary people.

What choice would you make? Go home, or make a run for it? Face death and violence at home, or risk losing your life and those of your children by fleeing to Europe?

I have had many, many emails from constituents over the past few days on this matter.

Virtually all said Britain needs to do more in co-operation with the likes of Germany and France to help alleviate this humanitarian crisis.

I’ve only had one email from a constituent saying we shouldn’t do anything, and curiously enough that constituent didn’t provide their name or address.

Britain has a long history of providing refuge to people fleeing persecution.

In 1938, Parliament united to allow into this country 10,000 Jewish children trying to escape Hitler and the Nazi policy of violent anti-Semitism and the emergence of concentration camps.

As a result of public pressure, David Cameron and his Government are changing their mind as to the help they are providing.

The Government has committed to taking 20,000 refugees.

However, that is over the five-year period of this Parliament – 4,000 a year.

This country can’t do everything, but it doesn’t mean it does nothing or little.

I think the public want the Government to do much more – that is the British sense of fair play and help for those most at risk.