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An unprecedented situation arose today: when The Telegraph published that Nigel Farage believes the UK should welcome refugees from the Syrian conflict, a moment arose where the Green Party, the left, and UKIP, the right, were in agreement.
Almost three years since the beginning of the Syrian crisis and a large proportion of the Syrian population are either dead, militarised or displaced by the civil war. Yet, despite this, the British government and their official opposition remain adamant that the UK should not accept any refugees from the battle-torn state. Ignoring the massive demand placed on the neighbouring countries, especially Lebanon, and that the Syrian population must either leave their home and country or face their imminent death, the Tories, Labour and Lib Dems are refusing to help those in dire need of aid.
Hence, it does come as a real surprise when the leader of the UK Independence Party, renowned for his intolerance of migration and non-nationals, is the most high-profile figure calling for the UK to be more accepting. Despite the Green Party having called for this kind of action on Syria since the vote in Parliament, UKIP are being granted the real voice, due to their increasing success in the polls. Having caught on to this, Nigel Farage is making the most of it and he and his party are beginning to act as more of a pressure on the Government.
Attempting to find reconciliation for this confusion, however, can inevitably lead to some cynicism. Is it just a ploy by the UKIP leader to find some a policy that is popular with the British electorate? Perhaps it is just a way to soften the hardened perception of the party that they are nationalistic and racist. It is possible to find this as an answer: In the same article, the party leader maintained the position that we should limit the number of Eastern Europeans becoming resident in the UK. Trying to differentiate become immigrants and refugees, Farage implied that we have a duty to help those displaced by war and other humanitarian crises, which is entirely right, but that those immigrating for other reasons are undeserving of any support, regardless of the wider contexts of their lives.
And, again, I find myself in complete shock as I find myself in agreement with Tory politician, Andrew Brigden, who said “it’s purely political tokenism and it’s a policy put forward by…a tokenist politician.” Nigel Farage is simply doing this to strengthen his party’s image where the other parties look weak, and with the European elections on the horizon. He’s also chosen the Christmas period, when the other parties are fairly quiet (with the exception of Cameron who is busy being criticised in flood-stricken Yalding) to make this bold announcement. It’s all part of his recipe to gain a positive perception of his party. With people becoming tired of the three governmental parties, they are looking for alternatives and with UKIP tapping into their fears on immigration, distrust of Europe and now some compassionate ground for Syrian refugees, there is a potential for a far more popular UKIP here.
However, even if we are to be cynical of Farage’s motives, his is a policy we must also support. There has been a distinct lack of support for Syrian civilians throughout the conflict from the UK. We have shouted at Assad and threatened terrorist organisations who have used the conflict to their advantage. We have offered non-lethal support and humanitarian aid. But the conflict continues and people continue to lose their homes and their lives. If we really want to help the Syrian people, we need to help end the conflict and help every civilian return to a normal peaceful life.
In the wake of the UKIP conference in Westminster this weekend, the party and its leadership seem to be showing a conscious desire to mature in the minds of UK voters.