World Refugee Day – make your voice heard

Written by on June 19, 2017 in Campaigns, charity, Opinions - 1 Comment

Local resident Verity Kirk urges readers to act for child refugees

Refugees welcome banner

Ceremony to welcome Syrian refugees to Lambeth

Tomorrow (20 June) is World Refugee Day. It is a day when we can look around and realise that, as a country, we have a long history of supporting and helping refugees.

From the Huguenots (remember them?) to Jews and the Kindertransport  fleeing Nazi Germany, to Asian Ugandans, our country that bears a clear imprint of our history of accepting those fleeing conflict.

Hell, Mr Marks of Marks & Spencer, that hero responsible for Percy Pigs, was a refugee.

Verity Kirk volunteering at a Calais refugee camp

Verity Kirk volunteering at a Calais refugee camp

While we can pat ourselves on the back about this, we all know that the current migrant crisis is not historical. Far from it. We have seen it increase over two years.

So many people I speak to about it say they feel helpless. They wish they could do something to help, but feel they can’t do anywhere near enough.

Earlier this year, the government abandoned plans set out in the “Dubs amendment” to take in unaccompanied child refugees.

In May last year, the government promised in a House of Lords debate to make provision for an unspecified number of unaccompanied child refugees.

This pledge was the result of the Dubs amendment sponsored and pushed tirelessly through by Labour peer and former south London MP Alf Dubs. He was a child refugee himself, escaping from Czechoslovakia in 1939.

He was six. He remembers arriving in London with a tag around his neck, hoping against hope that his father would be there to meet him as promised.

We know that six-year-olds are wiry-legged, filled with combustible energy, loud voices, insatiable curiosity and mischief.

They need a safe home to take all that abundance to at the end of the day, so they can lie and down and sleep in the knowledge that they are loved and cared for.

Thankfully Lord Dubs’ father was there, and he was safe. But so many children still are not.

Tomorrow the charity Help Refugees is taking Home Secretary Amber Rudd to the High Court to judicially review and further challenge the government decision on the Dubs amendment.

The amendment, passed in April last year, stated:

“The Secretary of State must … make arrangements to relocate to the United Kingdom and support a specified number of unaccompanied refugee children from other countries in Europe.”

In a nutshell: Let’s get some unaccompanied, vulnerable kids over here and make sure they are safe.

Lord Dubs proposed a number of 3,000, which many MPs and backbenchers got behind, as well as the public.

Conveniently, the government did not include this number in the law as passed, which meant, in February of this year, that they were able to say that the 350 children actually brought over just about covered our obligation, and that we could dust our hands over a job well done and call it a day.

That’s 2,650 children left; 2,650 children over the borders without their mum or dad, alone, at risk of the elements, going hungry, being trafficked, prostituted and resorting to desperate measures to get somewhere, anywhere, better than where they are.

I saw their conditions when I volunteered with Help Refugees earlier this year, in the bitterly cold months of January.

I went to the Dunkirk camp to help in their food kitchen. The refugees were brow-beaten and constantly cold and afraid, but they were whip-smart, funny, interested in me, what had brought me there – mainly guilt and feelings of helplessness at what I saw in the media.

 

One little girl in a pink onesie she’d got from one of the clothing banks and wore with effortless panache that Cara Delevingne would envy, gave me a necklace she’d been making. It hangs above my bed, reminding me how lucky I am to sleep in there every night.

One little girl in a pink onesie she’d got from one of the clothing banks and wore with effortless panache that Cara Delevingne would envy, gave me a necklace she’d been making. It hangs above my bed, reminding me how lucky I am to sleep in there every night.

The backlash against the decision to abandon the other unaccompanied minors was immediate, from all political parties, local councils joined in, saying they did have more space but had received little government initiative, as well as 55,797 members of the public who signed Lord Dubs’ petition, begging for a government reconsideration.

Tomorrow is important. We could do our duty, as a country with a history of a helping nations in need, and take more of these vulnerable children.

We owe it to them and owe it to ourselves.

Help Refugees is challenging the government decision directly, on the grounds that there was no formal consultation with local authorities before the 350 number was pronounced enough to let us off the hook.

So please read, forward, re-tweet, re-post and talk about this issue. Email your local MP. Email Amber Rudd. Email Help Refugees. Do whatever you can.

We have shown ourselves in the wake of the terrible event of the Grenfell Tower that we are a city, community and country of incredible initiative and generosity – I heard on the radio this morning that there is a donation overflow and, when I checked, £1,141,506 has been raised in aid.

While in Calais I learnt the reason from refugees why so many want to make it to the UK: we are still thought of as a nation that responded with courage and kindness during and in the wake of the Second World War.

We have a final chance to make that belief worthwhile for them.

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One Comment on "World Refugee Day – make your voice heard"

  1. sabrina June 20, 2017 at 9:55 pm · Reply

    “One little girl in a pink onesie she’d got from one of the clothing banks and wore with effortless panache that Cara Delevingne would envy, gave me a necklace she’d been making. It hangs above my bed, reminding me how lucky I am to sleep in there every night.”its really amazing.As the world reflects on the global refugee crisis on World Refugee Day, there must be praise where it is due but also an increased focus on better cooperation globally.For more information, visit http://www.amirofhumanity.com

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