Prime Minister’s speech to UN on refugees a missed opportunity - Refugee Council
September 19, 2016

Prime Minister’s speech to UN on refugees a missed opportunity

Today Prime Minister Theresa May is due to address a special UN Summit on the refugee crisis.

According to media reports, the Prime Minister’s speech will focus on border control, rather than saving lives as she calls for refugees’ movements to be limited even further.

At the moment, the vast majority of the world’s refugees only get as far as the country neighbouring their own: the UN’s Refugee Agency estimates 86% of the world’s refugees live in developing countries.

In comparison, very few refugees seek safety in Europe. Existing European rules mean that countries on Europe’s borders, such as Greece and Italy, face a disproportionate responsibility for processing and protecting refugees who arrive on the continent.

Last September, in acknowledgement that such a system was unfair and unsustainable, European leaders agreed to relocate 160,000 refugees away from Italy and Greece to other countries to help ease the pressure. However the scheme has been painfully slow; in the last year, only around 4,000 refugees have been relocated. The UK has refused to take any at all.

Last week, more than 50 charities, including the Refugee Council, called on the Prime Minister to use today’s Summit as an opportunity to commit to offering more refugees safe passage. It’s extremely disappointing that she appears not to have listened.

Refugee Council Chief Executive Maurice Wren said: “These proposals indicate that the Prime Minister is intent on attempting to reinforce the untenable status quo; blocking off people’s escape routes and leaving poor countries looking after nearly nine out of ten of the world’s refugees.
“What we really need to see instead is the UK leading by example, adopting sustainable solutions aimed at saving refugees’ lives and implementing a more equitable system for sharing responsibility for protecting them.”