We all feel im­pact of the refugee cri­sis

Rutherglen Reformer - - WORKING FOR YOU -

The refugee cri­sis is be­ing played out on our tele­vi­sion screens daily.

Har­row­ing scenes of des­per­ate men, women and chil­dren in Bu­dapest, Calais, Greece and many places around the Mid­dle East, seem a long way from Ruther­glen and Cam­bus­lang – but they im­pact on us all.

In Bri­tain, we have long prided our­selves on be­ing a free and demo­cratic peo­ple, tol­er­ant and with a tra­di­tion of giv­ing sanc­tu­ary to refugees – peo­ple flee­ing from hor­ri­ble regimes, or per­se­cuted on ac­count of their re­li­gion or po­lit­i­cal views.

From the French Huguenots in the 16th cen­tury to the East African Asians or the Viet­namese Boat peo­ple in the 20th cen­tury, we have hon­oured the right of asy­lum and sanc­tu­ary for peo­ple in des­per­ate sit­u­a­tions.

But the mas­sive scale of peo­ple flee­ing from civil war, dys­func­tional gov­ern­ments or the threat of butch­ery is now greater than since the Sec­ond World War.

In coun­tries like Syria, Iraq, Libya or Afghanistan, nor­mal fam­ily life and a safe ex­is­tence has be­come im­pos­si­ble.

The sit­u­a­tion fac­ing many refugees is des­per­ate.

They know the risks they face in mak­ing the jour­ney to Europe. Thou­sands have died in the process. But still they come.

I have sel­dom seen such a trans­for­ma­tion of public opin­ion as that which fol­lowed the pic­tures of the young child dead on a Mediter­ranean beach as he and his fam­ily tried to es­cape hor­rors at home.

I have talked to many peo­ple in our area who are clear that more – much more – needs to be done.

And that public mood has led to a change in Gov­ern­ment at­ti­tudes which is welcome if still in­ad­e­quate.

Some peo­ple say we can­not af­ford to take more refugees.

There are of course chal­lenges but I be­lieve that we can­not just stand idly by.

It is time for gov­ern­ment in Lon­don and Ed­in­burgh, for lo­cal Coun­cils and lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties to put aside po­lit­i­cal dif­fer­ences and find a way, along with our Euro­pean part­ners, to bring suc­cour to so many fam­i­lies in trou­ble.

I am very glad that Lib­eral Democrats were able to se­cure that the UK gov­ern­ment meets – and is legally obliged to meet - its UN tar­get of 0.7 per cent of GDP for over­seas aid.

That also helps many peo­ple in des­per­ate need.

But a Europe-wide plan to al­le­vi­ate and re­solve the refugee cri­sis is now des­per­ately needed.

The time for ac­tion is now!

Cri­sis Public opin­ion has changed dra­mat­i­cally

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