This article orginally appeared in the Daily Jang
Every action has a consequence: those who engage in other countries have greater responsibility to assist in the aftermath with the refugee crisis
Over the summer we have all been touched by the suffering of migrants crossing the Mediterranean, many trying to escape the continued crisis in Syria. Our hearts sank when we saw the shocking images of the lifeless body of Aylan Kurdi, a little boy found face down on a beach near Bodrum.
Rightly we have all asked ourselves what we can do to help prevent this suffering. What measures can we introduce to reduce the deaths from drownings in the sea or to stop the suffocation of refugees in the back of packed lorries?
There are no easy solutions, but I still believe that the creation of safe havens on the border of Turkey, which I called for in Parliament when this conflict first began, could have assisted.
In the face of the current situation, it is welcome that the Prime Minister has made it clear that Britain will fulfil its "moral responsibility" and accept more Syrian refugees. This is expected to be thousands more. These are refugees fleeing conflict not arriving for economic reasons.
Over 220,000 lives have been lost in the Syrian conflict which started more than four years ago and four million Syrians have fled the country. With no end in sight and the situation continuing to deteriorate, it is our moral duty to assist in every way that we can.
I understand from a leading Arab diplomat, that many refugees are victims of a deliberate campaign of ethnic cleansing by President Assad to remove Sunni nationals and prevent them from returning.
So far over 4000 Syrians have been granted asylum in the UK since the start of the crisis and under the Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme, launched last year to prioritise those that have been the victim of sexual violence and torture, the elderly and the disabled, more will follow.
The asylum system allows those who stay to return to their own countries when the crisis is over. In fact many refugees and asylum seekers hope to return home when it is safe to do so. Let us not forget that Britain has a long tradition of assisting others. For example, during the Kosovo crisis, we took in around 20,000 refugees who were facing persecution.
The UK is also at the forefront of the response to the crisis having committed £900 million to help refugees in the region, inside Syria and in neighbouring countries - the second largest bilateral donor to the relief effort.
Whilst it is our moral duty to assist, we also have an additional duty to do even more because we have become engaged in the country's conflict.
Although Parliament did not vote to support military action in Syria, we have become increasingly entangled in the country's ongoing crisis. Our non-humanitarian aid includes over £50 million including advice to the National Coalition and lifesaving equipment to the opposition fighters including protection against chemical weapons.
There has also been mounting use of the military. In October last year, the Government announced that the UK was to begin conducted surveillance missions over Syria to gather intelligence. British troops are now been training Syrian opposition groups to fight the terrorist group Daesh - albeit that these are taking place in neighbouring countries and provide help in using small arms, tactics and medical skills. And in July we learnt that five UK military personnel have been embedded with US and Canadian forces conducting airstrikes in the war-torn country.
Whether we take further action and decide to conduct air strikes in Syria will depend on a vote in Parliament, which the Government has made clear will only come if "there is sufficient consensus behind it." Clearly this needs careful consideration given the dramatic changes in the circumstances of the problem in Syria, with the spread of Daesh.
For me to support such a vote, I would want to see a clear and consistent military strategy to defeat Daesh as well as a plan to undermine their poisonous ideology and propaganda campaign, which has allowed them to appeal to vulnerable, disillusioned and dangerous people around the world, including from the UK.
This strategy would also need to show what a post-Assad Syria would look like and how it with work with various competing interests, so that a similar situation does not arise as did in Afghanistan post 1989, where the effects were seen long after, with neighbouring countries such as Pakistan having to pick up the pieces. The international community messed up the end game in Afghanistan in 1989 and it seems that the international community has now messed up the end game in Libya and previously in Iraq.
Perhaps if we had followed the former head of the armed forces, General Richards’ suggestions and taken immediate action in Syria, we would not, as he has said, be where we currently are with Daesh.
If it is our duty to do more to resolve this refugee crisis given our involvement, then it is only fair that others, even more engaged in the country, should also take action.
So far it is the United States, Canada, Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates who have participated in Syrian airstrikes. They must also help to support the refugees fleeing Syria.
According to Amnesty International, 95% of the 4 million refugees are in just five countries - Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt. Reports show that the Gulf States have taken very few refugees or asylum seekers, although they do assist in funding refugee camps and house many expatriate Syrians.
I will be writing to the Secretary General of the 57 member Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and the Arab League to encourage them to open up their doors to their fellow human beings, some of whom are being persecuted on their doorsteps. Others are embarking on long and dangerous journeys when they can as easily be supported in nearby countries.
I understand countries like Saudi Arabia took in hundreds of thousands of refugees following the first Gulf War. Although many have returned there are still some living in refugee camps in the country, some 20 years after the conflict. There needs to be greater international support to help refugees to return to their country of origin once the country is deemed safe.
As we play our part internationally to resolve this refugee situation and take responsibility for our actions abroad, so must other countries who have become embroiled. It is only by sharing responsibility for resolving the crisis as we have become engaged in it, that we can find a solution.