I recently returned from three days in Lebanon with the charity Islamic Relief. I witnessed at first hand the refugee crisis in the region.
Almost 4 million Syrians have left their homes and crossed the border. Another 6 million have been internally displaced. Lebanon has taken in more than 1 million Syrian refugees, which has put huge pressure on the country.
I met men, women and children fleeing the brutality of both ISIS and the Assad regime.
Iman, a 65-year-old grandmother from Aleppo, told me how she was imprisoned by Assad’s regime for more than two weeks.
She had returned from Lebanon to Syria after her son was killed to rescue her five grandchildren.
She now lives with them in a shack made of breeze blocks, cardboard and plastic sheeting on rocky land generously donated by a Lebanese man.
I heard the story of Hadia, whose husband, a red-cross volunteer, was killed by a bomb. Four of her children are still trapped in Homs.
I promised these refugees I would share their stories, to help people in Britain understand why they fled their homes.
All summer there have been daily reminders of the greatest refugee crisis since the second world war.
The harrowing picture of Syrian toddler Aylan al-Kurdi, lying lifeless on the beach close to Bodrum in Turkey, reminded the world of the experience of millions of people escaping conflict.
David Cameron was recently forced into a U-turn by the weight of public opinion. But his pledge to accept 20,000 Syrian refugees over five years does not match up to the scale of the crisis.
Britain has a proud history of offering sanctuary to people fleeing conflict and persecution. In the 1930s, Britain took in 70,000 Jewish people. During the Balkan conflicts we offered shelter to 2,500 Bosnians and 4,000 Kosovans. We must honour that legacy.
I am proud that cities like Wakefield have risen to the challenge of becoming ‘cities of sanctuary’ over the last twenty years. The Government now needs to bring together local authorities like Wakefield and NGOs to work out a plan for Syrian refugees.
The people I met in Lebanon had suffered terribly, but continued to hope for a brighter future. We owe it to them to act.
Please contact my constituency office on 386124 or email@example.com if you would like to find out more about any of these stories, or if you would like to receive my regular e-newsletter.