In the summer of 2015, UK public attitudes towards refugees shifted significantly in the face of a substantial and sustained increase in the number of people entering Europe from the Middle East and North Africa in search of refugee protection. Contrary to what might have been expected, given that the prevailing public mood on refugees had up to this point been, at best, guarded and wary, this change in attitudes was not only overwhelmingly positive, but it also forced the UK government into a dramatic and significant policy change. This article considers whether this shift in opinion represented a real sea change in public attitudes, or was a fleeting and unsustainable compassion spasm.
Maurice Wren joined the Refugee Council as Chief Executive in March 2013, having previously worked in homelessness with Shelter and refugee protection with Asylum Aid. He is to be awarded an Honorary Doctorate by the University of Edinburgh in 2017 in recognition of his humanitarian work with refugees in the UK.