Last September there was an announcement by David Cameron that over the following five years the UK would admit 20,000 refugees from the camps on the borders of Syria.
So far, progress is fairly slow but a start has been made. The Government reports:
“In the year ending March 2016, a total of 2,441 people were resettled in the UK through this process. Of these, 1,667 were also granted humanitarian protection under the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme (VPRS). In the year ending March 2016, 49% (824) of those resettled under the Syrian VPRS were under 18 years old, and 49% (818) were female.”
The response of the Labour Party was that the figure of 20,000 was far too low. Yet no council has offered to use its own resources to provide sanctuary for the refugees. The 20,000 under the Syrian Vulnerable People’s Relocation Scheme will be entirely funded by central Government. If the Labour Party wants a higher figure why are Labour councils unwilling to offer any financial contribution to this?
In fact even with the funding available, the response of Labour councils regarding Syrian refugees has been derisory. My own council of Hammersmith and Fulham has not yet taken a single one – despite last year campaigning for the 20,000 figure to be increased.
Joe Anderson, the Labour directly-elected Mayor of Liverpool made a specific offer to take a hundred Syrian refugees (if the Home Office coughs up the “necessary resources”). Even though the Home Office is offering full funding Liverpool has yet to take a single one.
Sir Gerald Kaufman responded to Cameron’s announcement:
“The right hon. Gentleman says that he is going to take in 20,000 refugees over five years. The Germans took in 10,000 on one day. What kind of comparison is that? I recognise the financial problems and the assimilation problems, but if we do not do it now, we will live to regret it for the rest of our lives. The message from my constituents, in a huge postbag and at every event I attended in my constituency over the weekend, is: “Let them in! We’ll welcome them. We’ll do what the Germans did. Let’s get on with it!”
A powerful statement. But Kaufman’s local Labour Council of Manchester has not taken in a single Syrian refugee. Has Kaufman challenged them over this? Is he even aware of it?
Harriet Harman, the acting Labour leader at the time, also attacked Cameron. “We should not be talking about refugees as being “a burden” on us,” she said. She wanted to know of the 20,000 “how many will it be this year? The crisis is immediate so does that mean there will be only 4,000 this year?” She added that: “Many local authorities are keen to step forward and play their part—and that is greatly to their credit.”
The number that Harman’s local Labour council has taken? Nil. Has she made any criticism of her colleagues over this disgraceful failure? Not that I can see.
Jeremy Corbyn also indicated the 20,000 figure was too low. Action should be taken to ensure Britain “plays a much greater role than it does at present.” Yet in his Labour council of Islington inaction has prevailed. Only ten Syrian refugees have been admitted.
Barry Sheerman, the Labour MP for Huddersfield, said he did “not think that the Prime Minister has yet gone far enough.” His Labour council of Kirklees has only found homes for 11 Syrian refugees. What condemnation has Sheerman made of such a derisory tally?
David Lammy, the Labour MP for Tottenham, asked Cameron: “Why has he limited his help for Syrians to 4,000 a year?” Has he asked Haringey Council why it has limited its help to nil?
Diane Abbott, the Labour MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington, found Cameron’s “proposal for taking 4,000 Syrian refugees a year derisory.” How would she describe Hackney Council’s record of accepting nil Syrian refugees?
Jenny Chapman, the Labour MP for Darlington, said her Labour council was “on board”. They have since taken none.
One could go on. But the point is surely established of institutional hypocrisy having engulfed the Labour Party. In the media spotlight the Labour MPs find it easy to grandstand and virtue signal. With great emotion they will denounce the wickedness of the Tory Government. Yet when it comes to the more difficult matter of challenging their local Labour councillors, their moral indignation vanishes. Suddenly they become sympathetic to all the “practical difficulties” and their protests fall silent.