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It's time to Stand as One with people forced to flee

Posted by Tom Hayes Head of UK Campaigns

16th Sep 2016

Campaigners at Downing Street

Photo: Oxfam supporters handing in UK Stand As One petition Credit: Chris Worrall

The world is experiencing the biggest displacement crisis since the end of World War II. Poverty and natural disasters, conflict and violence are forcing unprecedented numbers of people to flee their homes just to get to safety.


The risks of inaction are enormous. If the international community doesn't strengthen our common responses and put in place better ways of managing the refugee crisis, more people will lose their lives or face years away from a safe return home.

The humanitarian crisis unfolding is the result of political breakdown. But the UK can play a role in the international response to that crisis. Theresa May's Government has the potential to save the lives of tens of thousands of refugees worldwide.

Last year, 100,000 people marched in London in solidarity with people forced to flee conflict and disaster. This Saturday, Oxfam and others are doing it again - and with your help, it's going to be even bigger.

On Saturday Oxfam will be marching in London and rallying in Swansea, just before the UN and President Obama hold summits to get world leaders to take action on the crisis. There's never been a better time to stand with those forced to flee and call on the Prime Minister to share responsibility with other world leaders.


Every refugee should have the love and support of their family

When people flee their homes, they're sometimes forced to leave behind their family. Families can become separated on long, dangerous journeys. When people do finally reach safety, many cannot reunite with the loved ones they had to leave behind.

The Government could support refugees to more easily reunite with loved ones. Right now, children with families in the UK are living alone, vulnerable to trafficking and abuse, on our doorstep in Calais.

No one should have to face death to seek asylum

When countries erect walls to keep refugees out, they divert flows of people elsewhere and make their journeys tougher. A lack of safe and legal routes pushes people to use smugglers to reach safety, leaving them vulnerable to exploitation. People who are desperate sometimes take big risks to reach a safe haven.

Currently, the UK requires people to be on UK soil to claim asylum. The Government could introduce humanitarian visas to discourage people from putting their lives into the hands of smugglers. Allowing people to apply for humanitarian visas at a British embassy in a neighbouring or home country would mean they wouldn't need to take unsafe journeys to safety.

Every refugee should have the chance to rebuild their lives

The Government has pledged to welcome 20,300 Syrian refugee men, women, and children into the country by 2020. We've seen an enormous outpouring of support around the country, with families literally opening their doors and greeting refugees at UK airports. The Government could help communities up and down the country to welcome more refugees by pledging to take their fair share. Right now, less than 1% of the world's refugees are finding safety in the UK. If we were to take our fair share, we should resettle nearly 24,000 Syrians by the end of this year.

No one should face poverty after fleeing conflict

Responsibility for new arrivals lies with the host communities in the first country of arrival. A huge 86% of the world's refugees are hosted by developing countries, compared to 70% a decade ago. As large numbers of refugees may stay in their first country of arrival for years (the average length of time that refugees are uprooted before they return home or integrate into a country is 17 years), there is a risk that these developing countries cannot realise their own development priorities.

The Government has done a lot to financially assist countries bearing the brunt of the refugee crisis. To help those countries take refugees and move their own citizens out of poverty and meet their economic needs, the Prime Minister could offer more financial support.

As one of the biggest drivers of global change, affecting millions of people's lives, the displacement question is one the world's leaders must answer. Together, we are campaigning improve people's lives and life chances. And together, we can influence the Prime Minister to play her part and #StandAsOne with refugees.

Blog post written by Tom Hayes

Head of UK Campaigns

More by Tom Hayes