MP for Edinburgh North and Leith
Lord Dubs & the Child Refugees
Children – you’d protect them, wouldn’t you? Children who have been separated from their families – you’d look after them until they could be reunited, wouldn’t you? Children who have been torn away from their families as they escape war or genocide – you’d make an extra effort, wouldn’t you? Not if you were in Boris Johnson’s Tory party you wouldn’t.
Some time ago the UK agreed to help unaccompanied child refugees – the kids who have lost their families somewhere along the line as they fled war, genocide, famine. Part of the reason that the UK agreed was a remarkable man called Alf Dubs – or Lord Dubs. He was born in Prague in 1932 and was one of the 10,000 kids that Nicholas Winton and others rescued through the Kindertransport, he grew up in England and eventually became an MP and then a Lord.
His amendment to the Immigration Act in 2016 would have seen the UK offering unaccompanied refugee children safe passage and a haven on these islands. The Government opposed it at first but eventually backed down and promised to take in 3,000. Councils up and down the UK offered places for those children but the Government dumped the scheme within months, having accepted only 350 kids.
Let’s fast-forward a bit to December’s election. Before the election the Brexit Bill said that the UK Government should try to make sure that unaccompanied refugee children are able to come to the UK to join a relative who is already living here.
After the election, when Mr Johnson had his majority, that commitment was removed. Alf Dubs proposed a change to the Brexit legislation (the EU (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill) to put it back.
The House of Lords passed his amendment and the Bill went back to the House of Commons where, on the 22nd of January 2020, Tory MPs voted to remove it. Every single Scottish Tory MP including
Children in need will not be helped by the UK Government; children who have been separated from their families will be told by the UK Government that they can’t join them again. In our name they are saying that we don’t care.
How can anyone think that is acceptable? If you had been one of those Government Ministers looking at Alf Dubs’ work would you have thought you should get rid of it? If you had been one of those MPs would you have voted to leave those kids helpless and alone? I cannot understand how anyone could think that any children should be abandoned, and these children have lost everything.
I haven’t heard a single voice of protest raised by any Tory member. Surely if you were a member of a party whose leaders thought this was acceptable you would protest? Surely you’d resign your membership, leave that party and say it was wrong? But there has been silence from Tory members, not a word from Tory MSPs, not a single squeak of protest from Tory councillors. If any of them want to speak up and speak out against this horror from their government I’ll stand beside them and support them in making their case but I haven’t heard a single word said.
We need a better, gentler, fairer politics. We need politicians who care about everyone who needs help. We need members of political parties to speak out if they think their leaders have broken the trust they gave them. We need a society that reaches out with compassion led by politicians who embody that compassion. We need common human decency and respect back in politics.
In our name this UK Government has said that a child on her own in France shouldn’t be reunited with her family now living in Edinburgh or Liverpool or Swansea. In our name this UK Government has said that reuniting a child who lost his parents while the family was running from war, genocide or torture shouldn’t go live with his aunt in Stirling or Derby or Cardiff. This UK Government has turned a cold and stony face to children who need help and they’ve told the world that it’s our face.
Not in my name, Mr Johnson, not in my name. The people I meet in Leith and in Edinburgh and in Scotland do not look like this and they do not sound like this – this is not us. Scotland will move to a different beat and those of us who value the better nature of her will keep working for a more humane way of treating children who need help. The aim is decency.