Much of my time is spent trying to improve the situation which constituents find themselves in. It is sometimes important for us to appreciate how fortunate we are for what we have. This was brought home to me having spent a week in Jordan with Save the Children. Our purpose was to meet with the Syrian refugees and assess the role which UK aid and volunteers play to improve their desperate position.
What I found in Jordan was, despite the many difficult and harrowing stories, positive. Despite having to accommodate over 600,000 Syrian refugees (and this is just the ‘official’ number), Jordan remains a relatively peaceful country. The Syrian refugees are largely safe and secure albeit there is still work to do to ensure that the refugees can build a life with freedom to educate their children and work.
The support given by the UK, in managing this huge migration influx, brings with it the opportunity to champion the basic rights and welfare which the refugees need. It also allows us to build our trade and diplomatic links to the area. Despite the upheaval, skyscrapers are going up in Jordan and British support will lead to more international trade.
Having spoken to many refugees, I was left with the impression that they are not planning for a new life in Europe, or beyond, but want to obtain the tools to make a success of their lives in Jordan. The refugees ultimately want to get home to Syria, when conditions permit. There is a perception from some in the UK that every Syrian refugee is heading for Europe. This is not what I found.
Delivering foreign aid on the ground is ultimately better value for money to the UK taxpayer than using it to support refugees in the UK. It is also better for our long-term security to help people to remain in their own region, where they want to be. Those who are uneasy about the UK Government’s £13bl overseas aid budget may wish to reflect on the immigration pressures and costs we would face at home if we did not fund in host countries. Using this logic, and the humanitarian support I feel we should give, I will continue to support the Government policy which protects the £13bl overseas aid budget and uses it to support refugees in their own region rather than taking more migrants directly in to the UK.
The greatest concern is the desolate area on the Jordanian/Syrian border, known as ‘the berm.’ With around eighty thousand migrants trapped in this area, Jordan’s border being closed to them and the onset of winter fast approaching, it is vital to get aid to these people to keep them alive. The conditions there can only be guessed at; humanitarian agencies have not been able to assess the situation properly for several months now.
Save the Children does an amazing job in Jordan. For many refugees, they are the difference between the gift of education and empowerment over ignorance and malaise. I hope to use my experience to speak up for all those who are in need of support and friendship in this remarkable country.