wednesday, 3 august of 2016

U.K. Lawmakers Urge More Action on Migrant Crisis

Britain’s government should do more to resettle Syrian refugees and strengthen border controls to clamp down on the smuggling of migrants, an influential committee of U.K. lawmakers said in a report to be published Wednesday.

The cross-party panel also criticized the European Union’s handling of the migrant crisis, saying the EU failed to anticipate and tackle the crisis and has done “too little, too late,” according to an advanced copy of the report by the Home Affairs Committee, which examines the U.K.’s interior ministry.

“Europe’s efforts to address this colossal refugee crisis has been lamentable,” said Keith Vaz, a member of the opposition Labour Party, who heads the panel. While it has no formal powers to compel the government to act, the committee’s high-profile role can shape political debate.

In the U.K., committees comprising lawmakers publicly scrutinize the workings of different government departments, providing oversight and advice.

The report’s publication follows the U.K.’s June vote to leave the EU. Polls showed unease about the rise of immigration played a big part in the referendum result. Despite these concerns, Mr. Vaz said it was imperative that the new British government stick to a commitment by former Prime Minister David Cameron to house 20,000 Syrians by 2020 as part of a program to relocate refugees from camps to the U.K. Mr. Cameron had wanted the U.K. to stay in the EU and resigned after the referendum. He was succeeded by Theresa May.

According to the report, approximately 1,602 Syrian refugees have been processed under the program since Mr. Cameron made the pledge in September. Most have been resettled in Scotland and northern England.

The lawmakers added that the U.K. would need to continue to work with the EU to tackle the migrant crisis and that they expected the issue to be a key point of the U.K.’s exit negotiations. U.K. border checks on French soil

Among the challenges set out by the committee was maintaining Britain’s longstanding agreement with France to carry out U.K. border checks on French soil.

Policing of the U.K.’s borders needs to be improved urgently, said the report, noting that the country only has five vessels to patrol more than 7,000 miles of British coast. While eight more boats have been ordered, the report said only four extra craft will be deployed within the next 18 months.

“The number of Border Force vessels in operation appears to be worryingly low,” the committee said.

(Published by The Wall Street Journal - August 2, 2016)

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