Bury St Edmunds MP witnesses the front line of the refugee crisis
Bury St Edmunds MP Jo Churchill has called for more action to help a Greek island cope with the refugee crisis after witnessing the humanitarian struggle first-hand.
Mrs Churchill visited Lesvos where thousands of people are arriving every day after fleeing war torn Syria and other nations in death defying journeys across the sea.
On the Saturday she was there, 1,700 people made it to the island’s shores but 33 died in the crossing.
At a processing centre, she met families of upto four children and pregnant women taking the ultimate risk for a better life.
Talking about how the trip impacted on her as a mother, Mrs Churchill said: “I did text all four of my kids on the way home, said a little prayer and thanked goodness I had never been faced with such a choice.”
With more than half a million people arriving last year and 8,000 people in just one food queue though, the small island is struggling.
Mrs Churchill said: “The toll it’s taking on those volunteers is absolutely phenomenal.
“We need to do more to help them cope with the volume but we have to be careful how we do that and talk to the local authorities.”
At a conference this week, dozens of countries committed billions of pounds to help the refugees and people in Syria whose lives have been blighted by the five year conflict.
It aims to provide jobs and schooling for the refugees bordering Syria - a mission which Mrs Churchill supports.
“There’s no work and no education for their children. I’m really proud of how much we’ve donated because we’ve extended and targeted it where it’s the most needed,” she said.
“It’s really good to see the pledges that have been made but we need to make sure pledges become cheques and the work that’s done is monitored and evaluated so we know we’re getting things on the front line.
“That island is never going to be the same because of the sheer number of burials that have taken place on it.”
She was joined in Lesvos by two other Conservative MPs and the visit was organised by charity Save the Children which is calling on the UK Government to offer a home for unaccompanied children who have arrived in Europe without their parents.
The UK is to accept more unaccompanied child refugees but the Government has not said how many.
Mrs Churchill said as it is unclear how many unaccompanied children there are, she would be ‘very hesitant to put an arbitrary number’ on how many the UK should take.
“We have to be really careful - there are families which can be reunited. It’s mass migration and people do get separated. We need to make sure we’re not being overemotional - that the help that’s needed is the right help.”