Government turning a blind eye to refugee crisis, say aid agencies


The Government is turning a "blind eye" on the "world's poorest and most vulnerable" by failing to provide an "adequate response" to the European migrant crisis, according to a group of aid agencies.

In a damning report, 13 aid and refugee agencies accuse Britain and other EU member states of failing to live up to their "moral responsibility".

In an open appeal to the Government, Oxfam, the British Refugee Council and 11 other agencies called on the Home Office to recognise its "obligation" to offer asylum to a "fair share" of refugees.

Oxfam's head of humanitarian policy, Maya Mailer, said: "The UK is trying to pretend that this is someone else's problem, and that refugees and migrants could and should be dealt with elsewhere.

"But people who are desperate will take huge risks to reach safety.

"The UK needs to accept its moral responsibility to offer a safe haven to the world's poorest and most vulnerable - men, women and children who have been made homeless by war, violence and disasters."

The agencies also warn that the Government's strategy of providing foreign aid to the countries neighbouring war-torn Syria and Libya is inadequate, and should be focused on "protection for people on the move".

In their report the agencies set out five key points they argue must be addressed to solve the humanitarian crisis.

They include expanding legal routes to reach the UK, improving conditions at border crossings between European countries, and ensuring that refugees are given the opportunity to request asylum on arrival.

The report also calls for Britain and the EU to better assist in the improvement of conditions in sprawling refugee camps that have been set up in countries including Jordan and Lebanon, as well as tackling the cause of displacement.

Maurice Wren, chief executive of the British Refugee Council, accused European leaders of lacking the "political leadership and moral courage" to tackle the crisis.

"Today we're presenting a roadmap for change which prioritises saving lives, solidarity and safe passage," he said.

"European governments, including the UK, must take a long hard look at themselves and ask is this the best they can do? We say that it doesn't have to be this way."

Next week will mark the one-year anniversary since 800 people drowned attempting to reach Lampedusa, the largest of the Italian Pelagie Islands.

Despite the creation of a European naval patrol in the Mediterranean and Aegean, more than 135,000 migrants reached Europe by sea between January and March this year, according to figures published by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.