The conflict in Syria continues to be by far the biggest driver of the mass migration, followed by Afghans and Eritreans. I acknowledge the significant role the UK is playing in providing funding and aid for refugees now living in the countries immediately neighbouring Syria. But now it is time to step up to the plate and open our doors to Syrian refugees. The UN has urged the EU to accommodate up to 200,000 refugees as part of a mass relocation programme. Germany has taken more Syrian refugees in a month than Britain has in a year.
As the world’s sixth-richest economy and a country that has historical involvement in the Middle East, Britain has a moral and humanitarian responsibility towards the Syrian refugees. In the midst of ‘migrant madness’, we must be mindful of the distinction between economic migrants and refugees fleeing war-torn homelands. We have a moral and ethical duty to help those fleeing from war-torn countries.
There has been a public outcry of compassion after the publication of Aylan Kurdi’s image. The British people in huge numbers, through petitions and offers of help, have shown they are prepared to welcome those who are fleeing fear and violence. I am profoundly moved by so many British people opening up the doors of their homes to welcome refugees. From single mums to local businesses, lawyers to lorry drivers, faith institutions to city councils – those from all sections of British society have opened up their hearts and emptied their pockets to help the refugees.
The refugee crisis now requires British and European governments to demonstrate political courage and human compassion to deal with the present global movement of people that is bigger than at any time since World War II. It is a defining moment in British history and our swift, decisive, amicable and compassionate response to the refugees will showcase our true ‘British values’ and our long tradition of welcoming people fleeing violence.
We are proud of Britain’s long heritage of welcoming refugees. In the past, Britain has welcomed thousands fleeing their countries – whether it be Huguenot Christians, Jewish refugees, Ugandan Asians, Vietnamese boat people and many more. We have a moral responsibility to honour this tradition and play our part in taking a proportionate number of refugees displaced by the ongoing Syrian conflict.
We must not forget that these refugees have been pushed towards the EU; they are forced out of their countries by violence, persecution and war. They are not trying to pursue a better economic life for themselves, something which is perfectly acceptable but which should be liable to strict immigration checks and balances. But they are trying to save their lives; they are trying to find shelter for their children and food for their stomachs.
The international community needs a new moral compass in the context of the growing number of deaths in the Mediterranean. The refugees are no long one country’s or one continent’s problem; they are everyone’s problem. They are ‘our’ problem. We must tackle this issue above party-politics and religious divisions. We owe it to hundreds of drowned children to stop more young children dying on our shores. We must act and act quickly, with political courage and human compassion.
Accepting refugees is only part of the solution, the international community must come together to end violence against civilians in Syria. With winter fast approaching and with the tragic civil war in Syria spiralling further out of control, it seems inevitable that the situation of refugees will worsen significantly. Procrastination or inaction is simply not an option. The regional and international players must find a solution to the crisis because the truth is that the Syrian conflict has not been contained.
The conflict has spread throughout the region and is a recruitment tool for radicalization. Its consequences are felt throughout the globe. It is imperative that in our condemnation of the terrorism that has plighted our world we are just as vocal and active in speaking out against state aggression like this that leaves hundreds of thousands dead and millions more displaced.
By Qari Muhammad Asim
Senior Imam – Makkah Mosque, Leeds
Note: The views expressed are those of the author and may not necessarily reflect that of ImamsOnline.