Today I joined my fellow Lewisham MPs Janet Daby (Lewisham East) and Ellie Reeves (Lewisham West and Penge), Mayor of Lewisham Damien Egan and Councillor Kevin Bonavia, Cabinet Member for Democracy, Refugees and Accountability, in writing to the Minister for Immigration Compliance and the Courts to request that the UK joins EU countries in relocating refugees currently stranded in the Greek islands using the UK’s Refugee Resettlement Scheme. The scheme has already been utilised successfully by many local authorities – including Lewisham – to provide a safe and secure sanctuary for vulnerable and displaced people.
Here is the plain full text of our letter:
Chris Philp MP
Minister for Immigration Compliance and the Courts
2 Marsham Street
Re: Emergency request to relocate camp inhabitants across the Aegean islands
We are writing to you to request the emergency relocation of camp inhabitants across the Aegean islands. We have been working closely with the London Must Act Campaign which is a chapter of Europe Must Act (EMA) which is Europe-wide, and there are 23 chapters of EMA in the UK alone. With winter progressing and the grossly inadequate living conditions for people on the move living on the Greek islands, it is increasingly urgent for us to act.
Thousands of refugees are facing horrifying and desperate conditions, with reports of many having to go without water and electricity. On 4th January we heard the tragic news that yet another life was lost at the Aegean where a 26-year old woman drowned on 4 January. On 26th December four children were injured when armed people attacked an accommodation centre for unaccompanied refugee children in Northern Greece. Meanwhile, conditions in ‘Moria 2.0’ on Lesvos and the EU funded ‘new Malakasa’ construction outside of Athens are becoming increasingly dire.
In June 2020, Greece cut spending on a programme aimed at housing the most vulnerable in the camps. This meant that many asylum seekers who had been placed in temporary accommodation are now left with no option but to return to the islands camps. It is shocking that some the most vulnerable groups – pregnant women, new-born babies, people with disabilities and chronic illnesses, elderly people, survivors of sexual and gender-based violence, single women, single parents and separated children – have been left to fend for themselves.
Refugees in the camps saw Greece as their entry point to Europe, but that route was blocked following an immigration crackdown by the EU. According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM) 2,050 people have been accepted by member states in 2020 under the Commission scheme to prepare and relocate 1,600 unaccompanied children and families to European member states. The member states include Finland, Lithuania, Bulgaria, Luxemburg, France, Portugal, Ireland, Belgium, The Netherlands and Germany.
It is critical that the UK joins EU countries in relocating those stranded in the Greek islands using the UK’s Refugee Resettlement Scheme. We cannot stand by and do nothing. The government must step up and do the right thing.
Cllr Kevin Bonavia
Mayor Damien Egan
Janet Daby MP
Vicky Foxcroft MP
Ellie Reeves MP