On Friday 4 September at 7pm I was interviewed by BBC News Channel to comment on Cameron’s refugee plan and its meagre and inadequate (someone said ‘pathetic and derisory’) offer to resettle 20,000 Syrian refugees from camps around Syria over 5 years. There are currently 4 million displaced Syrians in the region, so the UK plan will affect a tiny fraction of the displaced population. Just before me while I was sitting in the BBC Oxford studio, a spokesperson for Save the Children was asked to comment on the proposal. She took a much more positive view of the refugee plan and went as far as saying, with my astonishment, that the reason for the current flow of refugees towards Europe is that not all EU member states are as generous as the UK. I could hardly believe to my ears.
Since then we witnessed Germany opening (if only temporarily) its borders to thousands of refugees and de facto suspending the Dublin agreement, Juncker promising a relocation plan for 160,000 asylum seekers and a vibrant and spontaneous refugee solidarity movement being born in the UK and elsewhere in Europe.
For those who are acquainted with Cameron’s PR skills, it is no surprise that today, the day after the largest pro-refugee demo in London in years, Cameron shows up in a refugee camp in Lebanon to reiterate his plan and validate it with a few photos of him with refugee children and women.
In an earlier visit to Syrian refugees in Lebanon Cameron was accompanied by his wife, a strategy he uses when he wants to convey his more compassionate self. On the day, Samantha Cameron was wearing a meant-to-be-visible t-shirt of Save the Children. I can’t tell if such dressing choice was her idea or the suggestion came from Save the Children comms office. Perhaps this is not the point. This photo of the day captures the cosy relationship between the humanitarian organisation and the UK government and reminded me of the BBC news interview I mentioned earlier. It turns out that Save the Children is among those who are gaining financially from Cameron’s refugee strategy of warehousing refugees in camps as far away as possible from British shores.
I went to Oxford demo for refugees last week, many like me are critical of the government refugee plan and feel the urge to help refugees concretely making donations to NGOs and support organisations, perhaps we all should be more careful to who we donate to and how our donations are used.
*An earlier version of this blog wrongly implied that Samantha Cameron had visited the camp today.