There are now four million refugees from Syria with 95 per cent in only five host countries: Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt. Despite calls from the international community and a coalition of charities for more help, the UK has offered shelter to just 187 Syrian refugees.
42 per cent of Britons do not think foreign nationals seeking safety from conflict or persecution should be welcomed to UK shores. Last year, a similar survey found that 31 per cent of Britons believed the UK should not let refugees in. Islamic Relief said it was a “dramatic hardening of views” against people displaced by war such as the civil war in Syria. When it comes to the Syrian crisis specifically 47 per cent of the people polled said the UK should not provide refuge. Only 29 per cent were in favour.
The Refugee Council’s head of advocacy, Dr Lisa Doyle, said “Asylum should have nothing to do with religion or nationality – it is about providing safety to people who need it.”
Shaheen Chughtai, deputy head of humanitarian policy at Oxfam, said the British public tends to respond well to natural disasters, but as war is so complex, there can be a misunderstanding of the “horrors” of what is happening. “It can be a challenge, because people don’t actually see what’s going on,” he said. “In Syria, for example, it’s politics and war that has led to the crisis. But often it’s innocent people who bear the brunt of the persecution and destruction. If people saw the hunger, the extreme violence, whole lives being torn apart, people might better realise what’s going on.”