Carmichael highlights refugee challenge following Turkey-Syria earthquake

24 Feb 2023

Orkney and Shetland MP, Alistair Carmichael, yesterday raised concerns about the lack of access to short-term family reunion visas for those affected by the earthquake and Syria earlier this month. Speaking in a debate on the disaster in Parliament, Mr Carmichael highlighted the scale of loss of life, and noted that while more people will want to stay in place, some with close family in the UK could be better off with a short-term visa until homes are rebuilt.

Speaking in Parliament Mr Carmichael said:

“There are 47,000 dead—my constituency has 45,000 people in it. That gives a sense of what we are facing in human terms.

“On the subject of refugees, many of those who have been displaced will of course want to stay and rebuild, but they may want to send some of their family to join family here. Would this not be a great opportunity to give a lead in the world and set up a scheme for those who have connections here in the same way that we did for those fleeing war in Ukraine?”

Responding to the issue later in the debate for the government, Foreign Office minister David Rutley MP said:

“We want to ensure we provide support to relatives impacted by the disaster, and when family members do not have British visas they will be able to apply by one of our standard visa routes, which remain available. The application centre closest to the affected region, in Adana, Turkey, has now reopened following temporary closure after the earthquake, which will support people looking for a UK visa and enable those who have already applied to submit their biometrics.

“Those who have been affected by the earthquake are able to relocate safely within Turkey, and we have reports that some of those affected by the earthquakes in Syria have crossed the border as well. Our primary focus is on providing support.”

Reacting after the debate, Mr Carmichael said:

“The humanitarian aid the government has offered is just a drop in the bucket given the scale of the disaster in Turkey and Syria. The regular visa schemes clearly will not suffice when people need temporary support from their families.

“Just last year, the government operated a similar visa scheme for Ukrainians, with successful results. They have totally failed to explain why the same cannot be done now.”