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Refugee Crises

Volume 650: debated on Tuesday 4 December 2018

6. What recent steps he has taken through the UN and other international organisations to tackle refugee crises. (907991)

The UK has been working with the United Nations to agree a global compact on refugees, which is set for adoption by the end of the year. It provides a comprehensive global framework that goes beyond life-saving humanitarian support, enabling a longer-term response, offering refugees a viable future.

The UN’s global compact on refugees is indeed welcome—it recognises our common humanity and interconnectedness—but I am concerned that it is non-binding. How will the Government work to strengthen it? Will the Foreign Secretary and Home Secretary work together to review our restrictive rules, which prevent refugee families from being together?

I am glad that the hon. Lady welcomes the UK’s role, and I assure her that the UK has been fully engaged throughout the whole process since the United Nations agreed to move forward on this issue. We have been working on the wording and the direction of travel, to make sure that it is an agreement that can work for the whole world.

We are signing up to the global compact on refugees. I should clarify for the House that it is a different document from the one that has perhaps generated more controversy: the global compact on migration.[Official Report, 5 December 2018, Vol. 650, c. 9MC.]

Following numerous political attacks, search-and-rescue vessels have found it difficult to operate in the Mediterranean. Given the death toll, which Médecins Sans Frontières reckons is approaching 1,300 people this year, what are the Government doing to support the non-governmental organisations that wish to provide search-and-rescue facilities in the Mediterranean sea?

The hon. Lady is right to raise this important issue. She will be aware that two Border Force cutters are in the area right at this moment. I know she will welcome the fact that over the course of the operation, UK naval assets have rescued more than 30,000 souls in the Mediterranean. Of course, we are doing further work in respect of the UK allocation, which so far has totalled some £175 million.

I recently attended a humbling and moving event in Taunton Deane to celebrate all the Syrian families—almost 20 of them—who have come to Somerset. Will the Minister join me in praising and thanking Taunton Welcomes Refugees, which is a model organisation? So many church people, individuals and council workers are involved in the organisation. It is just wonderful, and the families were so delighted. Will the Minister also please confirm our commitment to helping the most needy of Syrian refugees?

Mr Speaker, have you ever come across in this House a representative more passionate about her constituency than my hon. Friend? I am happy to endorse what she says and to endorse the work done in my county of Worcestershire. I inform the House that, nationally, the UK is well on track to achieving our commitment of 20,000 vulnerable people resettled in the UK by 2020. In fact, as of September, I understand that that total is now more than 15,000.

The Minister is absolutely right. I have learned more about Taunton Deane in the past three years than I knew for the previous 52—that is correct.

Many refugees are fleeing religious persecution. The Archbishop of Canterbury has said that Christians in the middle east are on the brink of extinction, facing the worst crisis since the 13th century in the birthplace of Christianity. What are the Government doing to support Christians in the middle east and to grant asylum to those who are fleeing that persecution?

Well, indeed, it is a very sobering Christmas thought from the Archbishop of Canterbury. In fact, there are 25.4 million refugees worldwide, and the UK, of course, stands as one of the most significant supporters of refugees whatever their religious persuasion. There is a service in Westminster Abbey later today to which all colleagues are invited. I know that this is an important piece of work that the UK will remain steadfast in supporting.

Will my hon. Friend outline what new mental health support is being given to the children in Lebanon and Jordan who are affected so badly by the fighting that is ongoing in Syria?

Yes, if Mr Speaker will allow me to put on my other hat from the Department for International Development just very briefly, I will say to my hon. Friend that he will be aware that the Secretary of State for International Development recently announced a range of new programmes to provide support in what has been a neglected area in terms of the psycho-social support and mental health support that particularly children in refugee situations need.