Refugees in Devon

22nd December 2016

I hope that my constituents were able to spend the holiday season with their loved ones and enjoy the season’s festivities together. Many of us are fortunate in knowing that our dear ones celebrated together safely and peacefully. Last year, we saw a record number of refugees, particularly children, drown in the Mediterranean while making the perilous journey to reach safe shores. Some official estimates suggest that more than 90,000 children began their journeys alone fleeing from global conflicts. Whatever the desperate motives that caused them or their families to consign their fates to small boats on the high seas, it is not the fault of these children.

The UK has contributed significantly to hosting, supporting and protecting the most vulnerable children affected by the migration crisis. In my constituency, I have been touched by the generosity on display towards the young refugees who came to Torridge in October. In some national newspapers, bogus headlines sought to undermine the compassionate response to these vulnerable minors.

While the political solutions to these complex issues are not easy, they should not preclude Britain from extending the hand of compassion when the circumstances call for that response.  The arrival of almost 70 young refugees in Torrington and the compassionate reaction they received demonstrated the extraordinary human solidarity of local people despite headlines seeking to stoke animosity towards these young people placed temporarily among us.

Shortly before their arrival Devon County Council was inundated with offers of help; from medical professionals offering their assistance to others offering support in language skills and translation and some organizing sports and other community based activities to engage the new arrivals. This response is one which demonstrated the strong and generous spirit of our community of which I was very proud.

I strongly advocated for the UK to play its part in safeguarding the welfare of unaccompanied refugee children living in the Calais camp, voting against my party, because I believed that this country had to respond compassionately to the plight of children caught up in the dangerous conditions that had been allowed to develop there and for which we cannot escape some responsibility. The correspondence that I received from hundreds of my constituents has reaffirmed my belief that this decision was the right one and I was pleased that the Government then changed its approach and agreed to help.

Many will have been concerned to learn recently about the number of refugee children who have absconded following their arrival into Britain. This Government is making every effort to ensure that everything is done to protect the lives of children at risk. The Government's Missing Children and Adults Strategy for England and Wales provides a core framework for local areas to do more to prevent and protect children and vulnerable adults who go missing. This year, the Government will publish a refreshed strategy, which will include an implementation plan to improve the overall response to missing people, including better use of the Child Rescue Alert system and increased efforts aimed at prevention.

Nobody denies that the complex problems presented by mass migration from troubled areas of the world will not be capable of resolution by the unlimited absorption of their numbers by this or any other country. Yet, Britain has always been at her best when she is not afraid to respond to an international crisis with both head and heart.


Surgery Dates

Geoffrey holds regular surgeries. To book an appointment please click here or call 01822 612925.
Saturday 14th April
Bideford, Torrington
Saturday 21st April
Holsworthy, Tavistock