Campaigners are calling for Resettlement Boards to be set up to deal with the demand from asylum seekers. Neil Jameson, Executive Director of Citizens UK, told BlastingNews: “In times past, to cope with similar crises, National Welcome and Resettlement Boards have been formed to mobilise the country to rise to the challenge of the moment, whether it be children fleeing Nazi Germany, Poles who fought in the Battle of Britain, Asian Ugandans fleeing Idi Amin, or Vietnamese Boat People. We urgently need a Board to be created to coordinate the effort.” He added that the UK should be taking 10,000 refugees every year. His group hold a vigil in central London in the past evening (8 September) to highlight their campaign.
European leaders are rushing to respond to a huge public outcry over the refugee crisis. Germany has led the reaction, with promises to take in thousands of asylum seekers. France has vowed to take in 25,000 over the next two years and the British Prime Minister unveiled plans to take 20,000 between now and 2020, when the current Parliament ends. That figure from David Cameron has been criticized by campaigners, who say it is not enough. The former leader of the Liberal Democrats, Lord Ashdown, went so far as to describe it as ‘derisory’.
A petition on the Parliament website in support of refugees has now reached over 400,000 signatures: before the picture of Aylan Kurdi was published it was in the low tens of thousands. However, a rival petition, urging against action on refugees has exceeded the 100,000 mark, at which point such petitions become eligible for debate in Parliament.
The crisis has been heightened by the picture of three-year-old Aylan, whose dead body sparked a worldwide reaction. Even countries that were hostile to the issue of #Immigration, such as the UK, have seen a wave of sympathy and calls for political action. The debate has moved swiftly from focusing on the migrants’ camp at Calais to addressing the needs of refugees, and the publication of the Aylan Kurdi photograph caught many politicians off-guard.
Addressing worshippers in the Vatican on Sunday, the Pope said: "Every parish, every religious community, every monastery, every sanctuary of Europe: take in one family." And he went further, offering to house – at least temporarily – two refugee families in churches within the Vatican. Campaigns have been mounted in churches across Europe offering to take in refugees, and pop stars and politicians have also offered accommodation.
However, the scale of the crisis of refugees fleeing the Islamic State threatens to pose serious problems for European political leaders. There has been speculation that the Schengen Agreement, which allows free movement between member states, might have to be rethought.
The UNHCR said that 7,000 Syrians reached Macedonia on Monday. They estimate that there are 30,000 migrants in Greece, with 20,000 in Lesbos alone. Melissa Fleming of the UNHCR has said that the number of refugees and migrants crossing the Mediterranean this year has now exceeded 300,000, including almost 200,000 people landing in Greece and 110,000 in Italy. She said: “This represents a large increase from last year, when around 219,000 people crossed the Mediterranean during the whole of 2014.”
Zrinka Bralo, a leader with Citizens UK and herself a Bosnian refugee, told us: “We need a Syrian Welcome and Resettlement Board to coordinate a nationwide effort to tackle this crisis.” It was revealed yesterday that campaigners are planning a march to Downing Street in London this Saturday in solidarity with asylum seekers. #Conflict