Thursday, January 23, 2014

Rowan Williams' plea to Prime Minister on Syrian refugees

Dear Prime Minister,

We are deeply concerned about the growing Syrian refugee crisis which you have accurately described as ‘the greatest refugee crisis of our time’. As you will know, more than two million people have fled the country, including over one million children, the majority of whom are now living in extremely precarious circumstances. Figures suggest that only around 0.1% of the people fleeing the conflict have found safety in the UK while 97%, are being hosted by the neighbouring countries.

We write to you today to urge you to heed UNHCR’s call to help the countries bordering Syria by establishing a co-ordinated resettlement programme in the UK with a focus on the more vulnerable refugees, including women at risk, those with disabilities, vulnerable older adults and families with children.

We commend you for pledging £600 million in humanitarian aid to assist people in Syria and the region. However, we are extremely concerned to hear reports of domestic violence, sexual abuse and rape from the camps on the border, and with the arrival of winter and freezing temperatures, these are plainly unacceptable environments for many at risk.

Only a resettlement programme will offer a durable solution for the most vulnerable who will struggle to survive in the harsh conditions in the region.

You are well aware of the scale of the crisis which shows no signs of abating. UNHCR has predicted that next year the total Syrian refugee population will increase to over 4 million. Unsurprisingly, given the numbers crossing their borders, Syria’s neighbours are buckling under the strain. We are extremely alarmed to hear that scores of people trying to escape the fighting, including families with small children, are being denied admission by neighbouring countries. According to an April 2013 survey, 71 per cent of Jordanians want the border with Syria to be closed to new arrivals. With thousands of people fleeing Syria everyday, this would be catastrophic.

There is a moral imperative on western countries to show solidarity with Syria’s neighbours by sharing the responsibility of protecting some of the people fleeing Syria.

UNHCR has called for western countries to take 30,000 people through resettlement or humanitarian admission with a focus on the vulnerable, a modest target given the scale of the crisis. So far 18 countries, including Germany, France and the USA, have responded to this call. Despite our proud tradition of protecting refugees, the UK has yet to respond.

We urge you to work with the UNHCR and the international community in the establishment of a global resettlement programme to help the most vulnerable find safety outside of the region. We must play our part in providing a safe haven to Syria’s refugees.

We would be grateful for your thoughts on this issue and would welcome the opportunity to meet with you to discuss it in more detail.

Yours sincerely,

Rt Hon. the Baroness Williams of Crosby
Rt Hon. the Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon GCMG KBE
Lord Ahmed of Rotherham
Lord Avebury
Baroness Berridge
Rt Hon. the Baroness Boothroyd OM
Lord Brennan QC
Viscount Brookeborough DL
Rt Rev. the Lord Bishop of Carlisle
Lord Chidgey
Rt Rev. the Lord Bishop of Coventry
Baroness Cox
Lord Desai
Lord Dholakia
Lord Dubs
Rt Rev. the Lord Bishop of Gloucester
Baroness Goudie
Lord Greaves
Baroness Hamwee
Lord Hannay of Chiswick GCMG
Baroness Howarth of Breckland
Baroness Hooper CMG
Lord Hylton
Lord Judd
Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws QC
Rt Hon Lord Kilclooney of Armagh
Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead
Lord Lester of Herne Hill
Rt Rev. the Lord Bishop of Lichfield
Baroness Lister of Burtersett CBE
Rt Rev. and the Rt Hon. the Lord Bishop of London
Lord Maginnis of Drumglass
Baroness Meacher
Baroness Morgan of Huyton
Lord Parekh
Lord Roberts of Llandudno
Rt Hon. the Lord Roper
Rt Rev. the Lord Bishop of St Albans
Earl of Sandwich
Rt Hon. the Baroness Smith of Basildon
Lord Snape
Baroness Stern CBE
Baroness Suttie
Lord Taverne
Baroness Tonge
Rt. Rev. the Lord Bishop of Truro
Baroness Uddin
Rt. Rev. the Lord Bishop of Wakefield
Rt Hon. the Lord Warner
Baroness Whitaker
Rt Hon. the Lord Whitty
Rt Hon. the Lord Wigley
Rt Rev. and the Rt Hon. the Lord Williams of Oystermouth
Rt Rev. the Lord Bishop of Worcester
Lord Wright of Richmond GCMG

And if His Grace were a Peer of the Realm, he would urgently append his name to this plea.  


Blogger Marie1797 said...

For once I agree with David Cameron. There are millions of Syrian refugees and asylum seekers, us taking in 30,000 what about the rest who are not taken in? It will not be fair to any of those left behind. Liaison with the neighbouring countries for them to allow more camps and increase law enforcement at the boarders and in the camps is the very best option as is us ensuring that all the aid gets through. The next thing is to set up temporary school tents for children's learning. To stick together in these camps and weather the war. The war WILL end and the people must be given hope and their spirits lifted.

23 January 2014 at 23:09  
Blogger carl jacobs said...

There is a fair amount of tokenism in this proposal. Resettlement isn't an option. There are just too many people to physically move. Thirty thousand is achievable and makes it seem like the nations are doing something. But the only real answer is intervention by force to provide protection.

Of course, that is what nations don't want to do. Not the least because they don't want to pay for the capability. The ability to intervene in force is expensive. But then come the stories and pictures and people feel guilty, and want to do something ... but on the cheap. Like resettling 30000 refuges. It's not nothing but it's really about us and not them.


24 January 2014 at 00:47  
Blogger Ian G said...

Would that be the Shia rebels who are slaughtering Christians or the Christians themselves? Don't hold your breath.

24 January 2014 at 00:50  
Blogger AnonymousInBelfast said...

Practical question: what possibility is there for UK Christians to offer any spare accommodation that they may have available to assist in the refugee process?

The way I see it, Carl is right about the response from States, but from the perspective of the Church, our brothers and sisters are in need. My wife works with refugees and asylum seekers in Northern Ireland, and one of the biggest issues is availability of housing (and where it's provided it's often pretty sub-standard - Daily Mail stories about asylum palaces notwithstanding).

Surely this is precisely the kind of landscape into which the Church could step in?

24 January 2014 at 02:06  
Blogger carl jacobs said...


The problem isn't accommodation. The problem is transportation . How do you get people from there to here? It's hard to move 1,000,000 people.


24 January 2014 at 02:44  
Blogger Phil Roberts said...


Lots of empty Churches in Wales.....

I agree with Carl.

Doing nothing is usually the more expensive option in the long run.

It is about time we helped some Christians militarily.

It would make a very welcome change.

If we don't want to do the dirty work ourselves, bring over 30000, train them, arm them then send them back. In the long run they will have to defend themselves anyway.


24 January 2014 at 06:01  
Blogger David Hussell said...

All people of good intention will want to help, myself included. But we are dealing here with truly vast numbers of people, all in desperate, urgent need. So I am very aware that high levels of knowledge, of both the up to date regional picture and the practicalities of resettlement, are needed to inform a truly wise and sound strategy. So I join with those saying the world must help, especially the richer nations. However experts must advise the politicians as to the practical options, and as a matter of great urgency.

24 January 2014 at 08:45  
Blogger Len said...

During the lead up to the holocaust Countries did nothing because the numbers were to great in fact some ships were sent back to Germany where the people ended up in the gas chambers.
This at least we should have learned from history.
We have lots of Churches that are empty why not use those(as someone has mentioned)I have in my area a huge church that has been boarded up for at least the last ten yrs.

24 January 2014 at 10:21  
Blogger Inspector General in Ordinary said...

This will sign the death warrants of Christians who unfortunately live in Islam infested areas throughout the world, especially Africa.

Johnny Muslim will have a renewed interest in violent persecution if he knows if he presses hard enough, his enemy will be airlifted away.

Support Assad. Give him everything he needs short of our soldiers on the ground. When he has control back, no more persecution. While he’s doing it, fewer insurgent muslims – he’s seeing to that. A win win situation, don’t you think ?

24 January 2014 at 10:42  
Blogger matt zx said...

With Carl on this one, those on this list no doubt demanded no involvement? then when the MSN get fed new more emotive pictures ,suddenly demanding we do something! Which given the list will be guaranteed to be the least likely to achieve or solve anything for these people !

24 January 2014 at 10:44  
Blogger carl jacobs said...

Just to be clear. I wasn't advocating intervention. I said that intervention was the only policy that would provide protection. If you want to intervene, would you:

1. Simply protect the refugee camps.
2. Aid Assad in crushing the Jihadists.
3. Attempt to refashion Syria as a civilized country.

And how much blood are you will to expend?

Considering the grief the US regularly receives on this blog over Iraq, I doubt there is much stomach here to take on Syria.


24 January 2014 at 12:49  
Blogger Philip said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

24 January 2014 at 12:57  
Blogger Philip said...

Could that many of the refugees are Christians at least partly explain the government’s reluctance to do more? Any action to help persecuted Christians doesn’t seem to be particularly high on the FCO’s priorities. And perhaps the last thing Mr Cameron and the rest of the metropolitan lib-left elite want is more Christians with traditionalist conservative views. However, I think I recently read that Syrian Christians are applying to go Russia, rather than the anti-Christian west.

24 January 2014 at 13:00  
Blogger Ezekiel Lamb said...

The Reverend John Clark need meditate on Matthew 7 21-23 Scripture is the truth it is not a game

24 January 2014 at 14:00  
Blogger Mrs Proudie of Barchester said...

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me:
I lift my lamp beside the golden door."

Don't recall this inscription carved on the White Cliffs of Dover...

24 January 2014 at 14:42  
Blogger carl jacobs said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

24 January 2014 at 18:14  
Blogger Inspector General in Ordinary said...

Carl “3. Attempt to refashion Syria as a civilized country.”

These desert dwellers are racially not up to it. But they do understand dictatorship...

24 January 2014 at 19:55  
Blogger carl jacobs said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

24 January 2014 at 22:35  
Blogger carl jacobs said...


So I take it that this is a not-evenly-thinly disguised attempt at Carl baiting?


24 January 2014 at 22:37  
Blogger Inspector General in Ordinary said...

That’s it, on the nail, old man.

Anyway, one stands by what he asserts. That crowd are an excitable lot, and life is cheap to them, very cheap (qv your ambassador to Libya). Until you can come up with a better explanation, which you can’t, a racial trait it is...

24 January 2014 at 23:00  
Blogger carl jacobs said...

IGiO wrote:

Until you can come up with a better explanation, which you can’t, a racial trait it is...

Ooh! This game sounds like fun. Can anyone play? What other sources of blame can we affix to the problems in Syria?

Until you can come up with a better explanation, which you can’t, Global Warming it is...

Until you can come up with a better explanation, which you can’t, George Bush it is...

Until you can come up with a better explanation, which you can’t, the state of Canada it is...

Until you can come up with a better explanation, which you can’t, the complete works of Justin Bieber it is...

No? How about Special Branch? The Loch Ness monster? Of course! The Masons! The Illuminati? Look, you need to work with me here. Negativity will get us nowhere.


25 January 2014 at 04:23  
Blogger Inspector General in Ordinary said...

Oh come on Carl !

Such stroppiness demeans you...

One needs to find an explanation for, in this case, seemingly inherent Arab behaviour. There is an explanation out there, you know, but one fears the truth will make you turn your head away. Your obdurate stance with its inbuilt depredation suggests you are not fit for the task, yet you are.

Consider this: Is their behaviour the result of centuries of Islam, or have they themselves modelled Islam around them. How do Islamic Arabs differ in nature to Christian Arabs. There you go, in those two sentences, there is enough to engage an academic in the field for years. But alas, who will take it on and risk professional suicide, thanks to your attitude, which sadly, does prevail.

25 January 2014 at 14:30  
Blogger TigerO said...

We are deeply concerned about the growing Syrian refugee crisis which you have accurately described as ‘the greatest refugee crisis of our time’.

Very selective perhaps because there are Muslims involved.

There are double this number of Zimbabwean refugees in South Africa alone!

25 January 2014 at 20:46  

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