Derek Vaughan MEP

Working hard for Wales in Europe

Daily Post Column

I visited Sicily recently and saw the desperation faced by people who have paid traffickers thousands of pounds for a perilous voyage across the Mediterranean, hoping to find safety in the EU. It was heart breaking to see so many fellow human beings fleeing murder, rape and hunger.

All EU Member States need to play their part in helping refugees and I’m disappointed the UK Government has scaled backed its rescue efforts. More than 2000 people have died so far this year while attempting to seek refuge in the EU, and it is appallingly unacceptable.

The ‘swarms of migrants’ rhetoric used by many in right wing groups is neither helpful, nor accurate. And the UK Government has been playing politics, attacking migrants to distract people from domestic cuts and their austerity policies.

The number of migrants that have arrived in the EU this year is so small that it constitutes just 0.027% of Europe’s total population. And the UK has accepted far less than other states. Estimates suggest that between 2,000-5,000 migrants have reached Calais, which is between 1% and 2.5% of the more than 200,000 who have landed in Italy and Greece.

The majority of migrants in need of support head for Germany and Sweden, which dealt with nearly half of all asylum applications into the EU last year. In 2014, just 25,870 people sought asylum in the UK, and only 10,050 were accepted. Whereas Germany had 97275, France had 68500, Sweden had 39,905 and Italy had 35,180.

There have also been claims that Britain is a sought out destination for migrants because of its generous benefits system. However, this is also a myth. Each asylum seeker in Britain gets a mere £36.95 a week to live on (usually without being allowed to work to earn additional income) whereas asylum seekers in France for example, receive up to £56.62 a week.

It’s a complex issue but we need to tackle problems in Libya, Syria and sub-Saharan Africa so people don't feel the need to flee. We need to rescue those who are in trouble at sea because it is the humane thing to do.

I support calls for the UNHCR to be brought in to register those people camping out at Calais, and go through a proper process of managing asylum applicants. When well-managed, migration can be hugely beneficial not only for the migrants themselves but also for the communities they settle in. We must stop this scaremongering immediately, and find practical, comprehensive solutions.
 

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