Refugees - Prioritise peace and security

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We are all quite worried by the refugee situation which threatens both those on the continent and us here in Great Britain.

This crisis is particularly distressing because it might falsely appear to put in conflict two of our most important principles: our humanitarian compassion and our duty to defend our country.

Britain’s long humanitarian tradition is one we must ensure we uphold.

This country led the way in ending the barbaric slave trade, in the social reforms that swept away callous and dangerous working conditions, in ending child labour and in trying to spread peace, order and good government across the empire.

Historians will no doubt (and quite rightly) point out we haven’t always been consistent in applying this record of humane behaviour.

But we should reject the notion that our humanitarian tradition is in conflict with our duty to defend our country, our borders and our way of life.

In fact, these two obligations go hand in hand. We have a moral obligation to help people in Syria and the Middle East, but the de-populating the region and encouraging the cruel and manipulative trade of human traffickers is no solution.

Real solutions must take place in the Middle East, and the Government must do what it can to facilitate an immediate end to hostilities among any of the conflicting parties likely to do so.

Our approach, up to this point, has been entirely wrong-headed, encouraging the Syrian rebels to continue this senseless fighting which will only be met by more violence on the part of the Syrian government.

All the while, ISIS is pleased to expand its reach, though recent events seem to suggest the tide is turning against them in both Iraq and Syria.

In addition to British efforts to help end the conflict and stabilise the region, it is right that we make a reasonable contribution towards the care of refugees within the Middle East.

Opening the floodgates of Europe will only deprive these struggling countries of the people they need in order to stabilise and develop, while threatening to permanently alter our countries in ways that are difficult to predict.

I’m afraid the frightening ease with which UK governments have decided to intervene militarily in Middle Eastern countries mean that we do bear some of the responsibility for the instability in the region.

Just think how better off we all would be today if our military reaction to the terror attacks of 2001 had been restricted to Afghanistan.

I voted against invading Iraq, but it has not provided much comfort to know that my scepticism over what we could achieve turned out to be correct.

We must learn to prioritise bringing peace and security rather than war and deeper conflict.

Syria and its neighbours is where we should be continuing our humanitarian tradition towards refugees, not Dover and Lincolnshire.

Sir Edward Leigh MP

Gainsborough Constituency