We are today facing the biggest refugee crisis since World War Two.
Some 300,000 desperate people have made the hazardous journey across the Mediterranean since January, fleeing conflict in their own homes and seeking refuge in Europe.
I visited Calais to see the situation first-hand.
I met men and children desperate to find safety in Britain, having faced hazardous journeys, losing friends and relatives along the way.
They have not been assessed for their migration status, but those that I met have all come from war torn countries, Syria, Eritrea, Afghanistan and Sudan.
These people do not seek refuge in Britain due to our benefits system – they would receive almost twice the support each week in France that we offer here.
They look to Britain because they speak our language, they have relatives here and have heard great things about our great country.
We must remember where they came from and how, and why. They have risked their lives to get this far, and they are now facing winter without food or shelter in this camp filled with stateless people.
David Cameron has faced increased pressure from the public, the media, and his own party, to act. But he continues to fail to see the crisis for what it is: a European one.
By opting out of a Commission proposal to help resettle 160,000 refugees around the EU, and by refusing to attend debate in the European Parliament, Cameron ensures we will have no say in the European response to the crisis.
The continued refusal by this government to keep an active, constructive seat at the table in Brussels will be our downfall.
Only if we build a collective EU response to this crisis – thousands of frightened people moving through Europe, will Britain be able to shape its own outcome and take charge of the pressures from camps like that in Calais.
This is how a leader should act with our partners to ensure Britain’s best interests.
Isolating the UK and acting alone will only ensure this humanitarian crisis haunts our consciences and revisits us in the months and years to come.
Catherine Bearder MEP
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