UK’s refugee denials ‘stain on conscience’ – SNP

THE UK government’s policy on refusing to take in refugees from the current crisis in the Mediterranean was described as “a stain on the conscience of Europe” by SNP Westminster leader Angus Robertson in Prime Minister’s questions (PMQs) today.

Migrants from Syria wait at the port of Kos island, Greece, on Tuesday, June 2, 2015, after they were rescued by the Greek Coast Guard. Picture: AP

The challenge by Mr Robertson on the Tory policy came in the first PMQs where the SNP will have an automatic right to two questions and was a sign that the Nationalists want to put out a distinctive Scottish policy to the lines taken in Westminster.

It came as Glasgow North MP Patrick Grady became the first of the new SNP MP intake to ask a question in PMQs challenging David Cameron on efforts by the Home Office to deport internationally renowned session musician Dr Steve Forman.

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Mr Grady asked why “despite his immense contributions to the music and creative scenes in Glasgow, Scotland the UK and around the world the Home Office have seen fit to try to deport him back to the USA?”

Migrants from Pakistan land with their dinghy at Kos island after crossing a part of the Aegean Sea from Turkey to Greece, Tuesday, June 2, 2015. Picture: AP

He added: “Can the Prime Minister tell the House why people like Dr Forman don’t seem to be welcome in this country because if the Prime Minister can’t run an immigration policy that works for Scotland then I know a government up the road that would be very happy to do it.”

Mr Cameron said he was not aware of the case and would look into it.

Earlier Mr Robertson had described the crisis in Europe as “a stain on the conscience of Europe” and urged Mr Cameron to take in refugees into this country.

Mr Cameron responded: “I would part company on him in his next suggestion. What we need to do in order to solve this crisis is two things.

“We need a government in Libya that we can work with so it is possible to return people to Africa and stop this criminal trade taking place and, secondly, we need to break the link between getting on a boat and achieving residence in Europe.”

He added: “In the meantime everything Britain can do as a moral and upstanding nation to save lives we should be doing and are doing.”

But comparing the current refusal to take in refugees with the UK providing homes to the Jewish children who fled Nazi persecution 80 years ago, Mr Robertson said that “now in contrast the UK has an appalling record on resettlement when it comes to refugees”

He asked: “Why does the Prime Minister think it is fair for Sweden and Germany and other countries to be taking these refugees but the UK turns its back on them?”

But Mr Cameron hit back: “We have an asylum system in this country when people are fleeing torture and persecution.

“The vast majority in the Mediterranean are not asylum seekers but people seeking a better life.

“They have been tricked by criminal gangs and our role should be to go after those criminal gangs, turning back those boats where we can and making sure with this generous aid budget, and this country achieved 0.7 per cent, that we are mending these countries from where people are coming.”