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UK proposal for refugees puts even heavier burden on poor countries

September 19 2016 - Christian Aid has criticised the UK Prime Minister Theresa May for her government’s approach to control the movement of refugees globally, which - the charity says - puts the interests of rich countries first, while ignoring the needs of millions of people displaced.

Speaking at today’s UN Summit for Refugees and Migrants, Theresa May warned the UN general assembly of the ‘dangers of uncontrolled mass migration’ and called for an international agreement to force refugees to stay in the first ‘safe country’ they arrive in.

Tom Viita, Senior Political Advisor at Christian Aid, commented: “Eighty six per cent of the world’s refugees are hosted in poor countries so they should be in the driving seat in deciding how to handle the world’s worst refugee crisis in seventy years. It is disappointing to hear Theresa May and other European leaders proposing to shift an even greater burden onto poor countries. This is not in the interests of those countries, or refugees themselves.

“May’s proposal for refugees to be hosted in the first ‘safe country’ they arrive in would trap even more people into degrading and inhumane living conditions in refugee camps. Furthermore, it reduces the possibilities for separated families to reunite.

“The UK is among the most respected international donors to help refugees, and could use its position of leadership to drive a genuinely compassionate and fair response. Yet it should not be misusing aid to prop up a discredited international system that burdens poor countries far too much. The UK should work with other countries to design a fairer system that creates long-lasting solutions for millions of people in need.”

Christian Aid welcomed Theresa May’s call for all countries to bear their share of responsibility for helping refugees. To that end, the charity is urging rich nations to increase refugee resettlement and drastically reform the way refugee aid to poor countries who shoulder the responsibility is financed.

The Summit is expected to kick-start a two-year process for a new “Global Compact” for people on the move, to be finalised by September 2018. Tomorrow President Obama will host a pledging conference to ensure quicker action is taken to meet people’s needs now.

Christian Aid is urging the UK government to attend the summit and pledge to host higher numbers of refugees by:

•        Resettling higher numbers of refugees, broadening the nationalities it resettles, and significantly accelerating the resettlement of the 20,000 Syrians the UK government has already agreed to accept in the UK;

•        Introducing a system of humanitarian visas to the UK, including via third countries;

•        Strengthening and implementing adequate measures for family reunification;

•        Acting on its responsibilities to relocate refugees already in the EU.

Christian Aid is currently working in Greece and Serbia through the ACT Alliance. Our partners are providing legal protection services to unaccompanied children, and families, on the Greek mainland, and housing support to some of the most vulnerable refugees awaiting relocation to other countries in Europe. Christian Aid and our partners continue to provide support to refugees and displaced people in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, South Sudan, and many other countries throughout the world.

ENDS

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Notes to editors:

1. Christian Aid works in some of the world's poorest communities in around 40 countries at any one time. We act where there is great need, regardless of religion, helping people to live a full life, free from poverty. We provide urgent, practical and effective assistance in tackling the root causes of poverty as well as its effects.

2. Christian Aid’s core belief is that the world can and must be changed so that poverty is ended: this is what we stand for. Everything we do is about ending poverty and injustice: swiftly, effectively, sustainably. Our strategy document Partnership for Change explains how we set about this task.

3. Christian Aid is a member of ACT Alliance, a global coalition of more than 130 churches and church-related organisations that work together in humanitarian assistance, advocacy and development. 

4. Follow Christian Aid's newswire on Twitter: http://twitter.com/caid_newswire

5. For more information about the work of Christian Aid, visit http://www.christianaid.org.uk

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