We cannot turn our backs on these refugees: Yvette Cooper on the Greek tragedy that shames Britain

Published at: October 29, 2015 11:19 AM

It was the armbands that brought home the dangers refugees are facing.

Amongst the discarded lifejackets on Lesbos' shore were countless child swim jackets and rubber rings too.

The kind my kids used to wear in swimming pools on holiday.

Yet this is all many children are given to protect them from the cold sea as they cross in smugglers boats.

Four boats arrived in the first hour we were there.

Flimsy rubber dinghies with scared families on board.

I met Syrian lawyers, Afghani teachers, Iraqi car mechanics - many with awful stories of stonings, bloodshed and oppression they had left behind.

Remarkable work is being done by the people of Lesbos to help and cope as thousands of people arrive on their island each day.

Inspiring volunteers - Spanish lifeguards, Israeli and Palestinian doctors, Dutch paramedics - are helping boats land and providing emergency medical assistance.

But they desperately need more help.

Because some of the conditions put Europe's Governments to shame.

One of the camps I visited had no taps, too few toilets, rubbish strewn where children play or sleep under cardboard, and hundreds of people forced to queue for days to fill in registration forms.

This is Europe. Surely our governments can do better than this?

Lesbos needs more support - extra ambulances, proper sanitation, more funding.

And there has to be a proper European plan to stop people smugglers and give sanctuary to those fleeing persecution.

No one country can cope with this alone. European Governments need to show some leadership.

It's time for Europe - and the British Government - to step up its response.

This humanitarian crisis is on our doorstep and we have a duty not to turn our backs now.

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