Yesterday (Tuesday 13th December) I spoke in the Urgent Debate on Aleppo and today (Wednesday 14th December) I have published the following statement:
A lot of people have written to me about Aleppo. I wanted to share my response to set out my position.
I apologise for the brevity of this letter. In the interests of time I wanted to write to set out my position as quickly and succinctly as possible. I am absolutely horrified by the humanitarian catastrophe in Aleppo. There are no words to describe what has happened and is continuing to unfold in Aleppo, but the United Nations came close with “meltdown of humanity”.
Our first priority must be aid drops to provide food, medicine, blankets and even a semblance of hope to the poor people who are left in Aleppo. Action to avert the worst ravages of this humanitarian catastrophe is the minimum requirement of a humane government.
Yesterday the Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson ruled out aid drops, arguing that they would be impossible due to Russia’s anti-aircraft surface-to-air missiles meaning that aid drops could only be achieved with Russian permission – something which is unlikely to be forthcoming.
With this in mind, I believe that it is even more important that we also denounce the actions of Putin and Assad, not only for turning Aleppo into a theatre of horror but for continuing to refuse to allow aid and humanitarian efforts that could save lives.
Today we wake to the news that a brokered ceasefire, designed to enable civilian to flee the city, had broken down and Syrian forces had resumed shelling.
In the words of Samantha Power, US Ambassador to the UN:
“It is your noose; three member states of the UN contributing to a noose around civilians. It should shame you. Instead by all appearances it is emboldening you. You are plotting you next assault. Are you truly incapable of shame? Is there literally nothing that can shame you? Is there no act of barbarism against civilians, no execution of a child that gets under your skin, that just creeps you out a little bit? Is there nothing you will not lie about, or justify?”
Yesterday I spoke in the Emergency Debate in Parliament:
“Is my right hon. Friend as anxious as I am? With Putin and Russia linked to interference in the American election, with the bombing of Syria leading to a refugee crisis in Europe and with many central European countries looking inward, like we are, Putin’s expansionist tendencies and desire for a warm port should make the Foreign Secretary think carefully about the actions from this point on onwards”.
With regards to the refugee question, I have consistently and vociferously called (in Parliament through debates, written questions and writing to the relevant Ministers; and outside of Parliament through the media and speaking publicly at rallies and fundraisers etc) for the Government to do much, much more to help the millions of refugees fleeing from horrors which we cannot even comprehend.
I travelled to a refugee camp in Athens in Spring. It left an indelible impression on me, so I am pleased that a handful Syrian refugee families have been settled in Haringey in recent months. For local authorities to take more families, they will need more resources from central government. These resources are not coming and many local authorities have faced cuts of 30-40% since 2010. I am pleased that the first lone refugee children protected under the Dubs Amendment have arrived in this country. But this is a drop in the ocean and I fear that this government will be judged very unfavourably by history.