We must tackle the causes of the Syrian migration crisis

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The harrowing images this summer of dead refugees, including a three-year-old child, washed ashore as people flee civil war in Syria and other countries would move even the hardest to tears.

The harrowing images this summer of dead refugees, including a three-year-old child, washed ashore as people flee civil war in Syria and other countries would move even the hardest to tears.

So the government’s decision to allow 20,000 Syrian refugees into the UK is the right one on many levels.

Sadly, no country can help all the millions displaced by that terrible conflict but it’s clear that Britain and Europe has a moral duty to do something.

This is a massive challenge with an estimated 300,000 people crossing the Mediterranean to Europe so far this year – many in great danger at the hands of people traffickers with the horrifying results we have seen along the coastlines of many countries.

But although our hearts go out to those who flee conflict, we must also use our heads to tackle the causes of the problem as well as the consequences.

That means, as the Prime Minister noted, helping to stabilise the countries from which the refugees are coming, seeking a solution to the crisis in Syria, a new government in Libya and, crucially, targeting the criminal gangs who are profiting from this human tragedy.

It’s important to say that Britain will take these 20,000 refugees from camps in Syria Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon and not from those already in Europe.

The reason for this is twofold: it provides refugees with a safe route to the United Kingdom rather than risking the hazardous journey to Europe, and it should hinder demand for people traffickers plus the “pull factors” for people to make such a journey.

Now, there has been some criticism of the government for doing too little on this issue but short term grand gestures, however well meaning, do not solve these problems and I think this criticism is totally unfair.

It has to be remembered that Britain is the only major country in the world that has kept the promise to spend 0.7 per cent of its GDP on aid.

This commitment is not headline grabbing but, in the long term, I believe it will be more effective because no single country, and not even the all the countries of the EU, can give homes to all the people who now need them. Solutions must be found locally.

To achieve this we are now the second largest bilateral donor of aid to the Syrian conflict, including providing food, giving 1.6 million people access to clean water and providing education to a quarter of a million children.

Last week, we announced a further £100 million in aid, taking our total contribution to more £1 billion.

That’s a lot of money, but it’s money well spent and it’s money that Britain, as a rich country, can easily afford.