Northern Isles MP, Alistair Carmichael, has condemned the lack of leadership by the UK Government in its failure to agree to allow 3,000 unaccompanied asylum seeking children into the country.
Speaking in the House of Commons, Mr Carmichael said:
The Secretary of State is absolutely right. Solving this crisis will require a co-ordinated approach across Europe. Surely, however, it is now apparent that to get that co-ordinated approach, we have to have some acts of political leadership? Last year, 90,000 unaccompanied children registered and applied for asylum in Europe. Does that not demonstrate the modesty of the call for this country to take 3,000? Surely this is a time when the Government should say yes to that very modest call for political leadership.
We have shown political leadership, not just in terms of the scale and the shaping of the humanitarian response in the region but in how we have responded to it closer to home. As I have said, Britain has done more than any country to provide support to refugees more broadly. As I set out to my hon. Friend the Member for South Cambridgeshire (Heidi Allen), we have done a huge amount of work to support unaccompanied children. Many Parliaments across Europe will be debating this issue, but few will be able to be as proud as the UK, given the work across government and the support being provided by so many British people to refugees in the region and to those arriving in Europe. I can reassure him, as I did my hon. Friend, that we are working very hard on the issue of unaccompanied children. We are absolutely playing our role.
Commenting afterwards Mr Carmichael said:
“I am quite happy to recognise the leading role that the Government has taken in helping refugees in countries neighbouring Syria such as Lebanon and Jordan. It baffles me, therefore, that they are so reluctant to demonstrate even the most modest leadership in helping those who have risked everything to come to Europe.
“The principle is simple: we help people in the region because it is right to help those who are desperate. I simply do not understand why we should treat desperate people who have made the journey to Europe in a different way. Taking 3,000 children is all that is being asked. It is not an excessive or outrageous demand. By refusing to accede to it, the Government forfeits any leadership role that it could have in helping refugees in Greece and elsewhere in Europe.”