Last week David Cameron, the current Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, made crystal clear that the UK would not accept any more refugees fleeing conflict in Syria. The day after his announcement, the photo of the tiny, dead 2-year-old boy, face down on a Greek beach on the island of Kos, surfaced online. Social media was aflame with rebukes towards Cameron’s iron ruling. The UK print media – nearly every popular newspaper in actual fact – ran the photograph, slating Cameron’s decision in the process.
The following day, Cameron, supposedly for reasons linked to fatherhood, changed his tune and U-turned on his Syrian refugee stance, identifying that the UK would in fact, take thousands more refugees. What Cameron risked in this highly-political gambit – by locking out Syrian refugees – was his bargaining chips in the continued fight to renegotiate the UK’s position and partnership within the EU. In the days that the French President, Francois Hollande, and the German Premier, Angela Merkel strongly urging other EU nations to take as many refugees as the respective countries have, Cameron’s decision was not in the direction he should have taken.
Just yesterday, Roman Prodi – a former Italian PM and European Commission President – stated that the lack of action and subsequent direction of Cameron’s dealings with the widespread Syrian refugee crisis could seriously damage talks in Brussells with relation to the UK’s membership in the EU.
Since the harrowing photo of the young 2-year-old Aylan Kurdi, lifeless and face down in the surf on a beach on the Greek island of Kos surfaced online, there has been a step change in public mood; just look at the welcome that new arrivals from Syria received in German towns and cities in the last week. It is just a shame that a young boy – amongst countless others along the way – had to lose his life before public mood overrode the apprehensive and cautious behaviour of EU leaders.
Around the EU, the mood is not often one of such elation; Hungary, a main thoroughfare for displaced refugees seeking asylum, this week announced that it would effectively seal off its borders and ringfence checkpoints, in an attempt to prevent the migrants from seeking asylum within the country.
What David Cameron must carefully weigh now, is how far to go. In the space of a week, due to intense public pressure and scrutiny, the PM changed his entire refugee policy overnight; will he stay true to his word or will he, like so many times before, renege on his agreement? As much as he need not worry about electability; Cameron announced in the throes of the 2015 General Election that he would not be seeking a third term in office, he must still focus on doing what is morally – and, less so, politically – correct.
His chequered legacy, and his credibility moving forward, may well rely on his next move.
To find out more about the Syrian refugee crisis, please visit the following:
- The Guardian: The Syrian Refugee Crisis – Why Has It Become So Bad?
- The UN Refugee Agency: Syrian Refugee Crisis
- Amnesty International: Facts and Figures on the Syrian Crisis
- Save The Children: Most Shocking 1 Second Video Ever (#SaveSyriasChildren campaign)