The International Rescue Committee (IRC) hosted a panel discussion in Westminster on Tuesday to discuss the urgent action that needs to be taken to address Europe's escalating refugee crisis.

Speakers including MP for Pontefract and Castleford Yvette Cooper, MP for Stratford-upon-Avon Nadhim Zahawi, humanitarian legal expert Raza Husain QC and Bishop of Durham Paul Butler called on the government to do more both to end the conflicts driving the crisis, and provide assistance for those who flee to Europe from warzones.

Director of Humanitarian Policy and Practice Sanjayan Srikanthan said:

It's only in the last six months Europe has woken up. The region has been living with this crisis for almost five years... we must stop people having to make these journeys, but the current system will not do this.

The four principles the IRC and a coalition of other NGOs, faith groups and legal experts are advocating for would represent a vastly overhauled resettlement programme:

1. The UK should take a fair and proportionate share of refugees, both those already in the EU and those still outside it

4. There should be access to fair and through procedures to determine eligibility for international protection wherever it is sought

At the heart of the four key points, the IRC said, is that conditions for refugees already within Europe are abysmal.

The EU's recent decision to take in 160,000 refugees across all member states ignored the fact that between 0.8 - 1m people are thought to already be in Europe - and often living in barbaric temporary conditions.

A makeshift camp at Calais

The panel also called on the UK government to introduce more humane family reunion policies, and for the EU to scrap the Dublin Regulation, under which refugees are obligated to seek asylum in the first European country they arrive in.

Nadhim Zahawi MP told the panel that he himself arrived in the UK as a refugee from Iran - and while the UK has a moral obligation to help, he called the IRC's plans an "emotional response" and "misguided idealism".

Several of the speakers, including Cooper, credited the lobbying done by the IRC and other charities with David Cameron's change of heart this summer in accepting 20,000 more refugees from Syria.

The IRC's Srikanthan told the audience:

Pulling children out of dinghies was never our programme policy.

The IRC estimates that €500m is needed across the EU to meet basic humanitarian needs such as adequate food, medicine and shelter on the ground.

The EU has provided €120m to member states to fund emergency responses to date, but the IRC says this is not earmarked for aid, and in many cases is used to fortify borders instead.

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