Baroness Janett Royall, who kindly chaired the event, emphasized in her opening statement the ongoing responsibility of the UK: “Whether we are members of the European Union or not, the refugee crisis will affect us”. Thilo Schoene, policy officer on immigration and participation at the FES headquarter in Berlin, gave an insight into the current debate and developments since Germany started its “open door policy” towards refugees.
He reported from short term challenges for integration, long term economic benefits and outstanding numbers of volunteers dedicated to facilitate the arrival of refugees. Thangham Debbonaire, MP for Bristol and chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Refugees, responded highlighting the willingness of British people to accommodate more refugees than the Government’s current target. However, she also strongly criticised the lack of a comprehensive integration policy, due to the Government’s austerity dogma, especially compared to German best practice examples.
More than 40 young participants engaged in a lively debate about the challenges ahead for a common European response and lessons learned from Germany, applicable to the UK. The event shed light on the need of strong progressive forces, working together across borders, to cope with the influx of refugees.