Garff MHK Daphne Caine has called for a Tynwald Select Committee to investigate the practicalities of the Isle of Man accepting Syrian refugees under the UK’s Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme. This is a subject that has created a lot of emotional response on the Island – both for and against – and such an investigation would allow debate based on facts and figures, rather than fear and hearsay, and is a move that would be welcomed by the One World Centre.
The Syrian civil war has been ongoing since 2011 and has created the biggest refugee crisis in Europe since the Second World War. Half a million civilians have died, over 6 million are displaced within Syria and almost 5 million have fled the country, with the vast majority ending up in huge refugee camps in Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq & Egypt. The conditions in many of these camps are desperate and, despite huge amounts of foreign aid, they cannot cope with the magnitude of the crisis, particularly as these camps are in relatively poor countries with severe needs for their own populations. Many European states have closed their borders, although others such as Sweden and Germany have been more welcoming.
The U.N. Refugee Agency advocated that 10% of the 5 million in the Middle Eastern camps should be resettled in a third country, particularly the most vulnerable. Countries around the world pledged to resettle nearly 250,000, half of the estimated target. In 2015 the UK Government committed to accept 20,000 over 5 years from the Middle Eastern camps, and by the end of 2017 some 8,000 had arrived under this ‘Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme’ (SVPRS).
The IoM Government has generously given relief aid to Syrian refugees trapped in Middle East camps, but many people feel the Island should investigate whether we can welcome a very small, but fair, number here on the island – to offer them an opportunity to start a new life in a safe place. We believe that civil society would play their part alongside government in welcoming them to our shores.
If you would like to see a Select Committee established to investigate this, please contact your MHKs (or any MLC) before 20 November to express your view and ask for their support in backing this motion.