We cannot just stand idly by

As a country we have a proud tradition of offering sanctuary to those facing persecution.

As far back as 1572, we provided safe haven to French Huguenots forced from their homes. During the Second World War, Nicholas Winton exemplified this spirit when he rescued 669 children from Nazi death camps.


The picture of a young child, drowned as he made the perilous journey across the Mediterranean with his familu, shames those who would say that we have no responsibility to help those fleeing conflict and war.

The situation facing refugees from Syria and elsewhere is desperate. They know the risks they face in making the journey to Europe. Thousands have died in the process. But still they come.

Last month, the new leader of the UK Liberal Democrats Tim Farron and I met with Amnesty International and the Scottish Refugee Council to discuss the crisis. They set out the scale of the challenge that we are facing clearly.

To those who would say that we cannot afford to take more refugees, I would say that you are wrong. We cannot afford not to. Failing to act would be a betrayal of our history and our international obligations.

Politics is a business rarely conducted in black and white. It is not often that a course of action can be said to be unambiguously the right thing to do. This is one of those occasions.

Taking more refugees and meeting our humanitarian responsibilities is the right thing to do.

We cannot stand by and leave this to others. We must not allow those who would close our borders to win this argument. I am pleased that Nicola Sturgeon will lead a summit today to look at what we can do in Scotland to help those fleeing conflict. I stand with her and all those calling on the UK government to work with our EU partners to address this crisis.

The response we have seen from David Cameron and the UK government to the humanitarian catastrophe we are facing has been inadequate. The time for action is now. 

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