Farron: David Cameron “heartless and stupid” to ignore plight of child refugees in Europe

Tim Farron has been doing the rounds on the media this morning to talk about the Government’s announcement that it will allow some child refugees into the UK. However, there are no plans to take unaccompanied children who are already in Europe. Tim has been arguing since the Summer for the Government to do more to help these children and was the first party leader to back Save the Children’s campaign for 3000 refugee children to be given sanctuary in this country so that they didn’t have to spend their lives in refugee camps, or vulnerable to exploitation. He has questioned the Prime Minister on this at every opportunity and before Christmas presented a Bill to enshrine that commitment into law. Laura Kuenssberg’s assertion in the BBC report that the announcement comes after pressure in “recent days” does not recognise Tim’s long-standing efforts.

Tim’s initial reaction to the announcement was that it didn’t go far enough as it didn’t do enough for those children who had already made it to Europe.

This is an important step, but it is far from the guarantee these desperate children need, and action must follow immediately.

Thousands of children are travelling across Europe. They are cold, alone and scared. They deserve a safe, welcoming home and I won’t stop until that’s what we’ve given them.

As a country we must pull together and offer them a home, while encouraging our European neighbours to do the same.

I want to pay tribute to Save the Children and have been proud that the Liberal Democrats were the first party to back their campaign, and will continue to work with them to make sure this announcement becomes a reality.

The images of the children I met in Calais and Lesbos will stay with me forever. This funding is welcome news, but there is still more to be done.

He’s talked to Good Morning Britain, Sky and LBC this morning and said that the Government’s announcement was more to do with media management than anything else. Of the failure to make adequate provision for children in Europe, he said:

Personally, I would rather that my government was open-hearted enough to instinctively do its fair share to help people in need, but instead they have to be dragged kicking and screaming to do something approaching the basics. I’m glad that the leader of my party is willing to put so much time and effort into speaking up for these desperately vulnerable children. He’s not about to give up on this until the Government does what is actually needed.

It’s not just about the leader, though. The team around him works tirelessly to help him prepare the case. Fionna Tod is the member of staff working on this issue and her research and strategic advice has been invaluable.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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13 Comments

  • Support for taking 3000 child refugees was part of one of the party’s 5 key tests for supporting action in Syria.

    The tests that Tim has said were met as best they could be.

    Sarcasm:
    So why are we still campaigning on this? If taking the child refugees was possible, then clearly we have already accepted that this has been met as best as it can. Or we’ve accepted it’s not possible.

    End sarcasm:
    It’s clear, yet again, that Tim’s 5 key tests were not met.

  • I must admit that when I saw this on the news a few days ago, there was no mention of Tim and I immediately thought that was very strange and wrong. But William makes a good point, there are few opportunities when opposition parties have real power and media coverage and the Syria vote was one of those times. The child refugee issue should have been a red line for Lib Dems’ support for bombing Syria.

  • William 28th Jan ’16 – 9:16am…………….Support for taking 3000 child refugees was part of one of the party’s 5 key tests for supporting action in Syria……….

    William, please don’t confuse the issue by reminding us what was REALLY said….

    If I may remind Caron of her ‘extra Caron test”….,”The first is a full, detailed assessment of why this group of people think these conditions have been met.”

    What happened about that?

  • This issue I have with this is that we have to look at the incentives that our actions create. We want to discourage people taking risks by traveling to and through Europe. The best way to do that is to take refugees from the camps in Turkey, Lebanon etc. Those unaccompanied children who travel to Europe should be accommodated in the first country the come to and if they arrive in countries further on be returned to the first country.

    There will be needy in both the camps close to Iraq and Syria and also traveling, but to reward those who travel by allowing them to choose where they are allocated over those who remain in the refugee camps creates incentives for lives to be put at risk.

    The best approach is for the further European countries to take direct from the camps and the close European countries to accommodate those who travel (with the possibility of a reallocation further on when needed).

    It is very tempting to try and fix the closest problem but it creates other problems and any response needs to consider the longer term consequences.

    Also not to forget we still have a vacuum in where a strategy for dealing with the war.

  • Just to add two more thoughts – I hope that’s okay.

    1/ I have no beef here with Caron – I think ldv does a great job at reporting ongoing events. My comments are more related to exasperation with the leadership – and that fact that clearly are now accepting that one of their 5 tests was not met.

    2/ I second Caron’s statement that Fiona is brilliant – we’re extremely lucky as a party to have her.

  • What Psi said. We should be discouraging risky travel by favouring those refugees that stop at the first point of safety (Turkey) and resourcing Turkey generously to look after refugees.

  • This is clearly an emotive issue, but thinking about I do find that I agree with Psi, and I wonder why the issue of those who have travelled already is one for Britain to solve, apparently by itself? I am not saying be ungenerous, but please let’s stop encouraging those who are able to undertake such a dangerous journey bia such an exploitative path and also do something for those behaving lawfully by sheltering in the camps. I also think we should be calling much more forcefully on tne saudis and the non-EU govts to do something.

  • “Thousands of children are travelling across Europe. They are cold, alone and scared. They deserve a safe, welcoming home and I won’t stop until that’s what we’ve given them.

    As a country we must pull together and offer them a home, while encouraging our European neighbours to do the same.”

    So Tim what you are really saying is that our (wealth) European allies and partners in the EU project, are totally unable to provide for these children. So what are YOU personally and the UK LibDem party doing to deliver on “encouraging our European neighbours to do the same”?

    Additionally, I would be interested to hear from the head of Save the Children (UK) whether their priority is: Helping ‘unaccompanied’ children in Syria come to the UK and be taken in/fostered/adopted or helping children born in the UK, who are also in need of being taken in/fostered/adopted and who’s needs are currently being pushed aside in the rush to make public displays of compassion; before the media spotlight moves on…

  • 1. Let them in.
    2. Contrary to popular belief Most UK young children are in foster or equivalent care with families. For once let us give Social Services a round of applause.

  • @theakes – are you suggesting that reports such as this:

    “Data obtained under freedom of information shows that 10,695 children were left without a home on Christmas Day last year – an increase of more than 1000 on 2013.”
    [http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/homenews/14158041.Thousands_of_Scots_children_homeless_at_Christmas/ ]

    are telling porkies?

  • Tim Farron’s comments make no sense whatsoever.

    Since nobody – least of all Farron – is suggesting we can take all child refugees, inevitably some kind of choice has to be made; and if Cameron had chosen to take refugees from Europe instead, there’s no reason why he couldn’t equally have been accused of “heartlessness” towards those left in camps near Syria. So what on earth is Farron on about?

    I can’t help but feel that the only thing comments like Farron’s achieve is to help make an already toxic debate even more toxic.

    Incidentally, Canada’s much-praised refugee resettlement programme also concentrates on people from camps near Syria, and Trudeau is lauded as a liberal hero for it. I think it’s the right choice, for the reasons others have already mentioned.

  • Katerina Porter 29th Jan '16 - 10:34am

    Nicolas Herin, a French journalist and ISIS hostage for 10 months – wrote in the Guardian that their creed is that Muslims cannot live with other communities and what would upset them particularly would be those pictures of Germans welcoming refugees.

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