Socialist Worker

'We must let in child refugees’—Labour's Lord Alf Dubs speaks out

by Dave Sewell
Issue No. 2502

Unaccompanied minors held in the Moria camp in Greece for up to 50 days

Unaccompanied minors held in the Moria camp in Greece for up to 50 days (Pic: Natasha Tsangarides)


Tory MPs are coming under increasing pressure over their refusal to let unaccompanied child refugees come to Britain.

The government is blocking an amendment to the Immigration Bill by Labour Lord Alf Dubs which would see children let in.

Dubs told Socialist Worker the need was urgent. “According to Save the Children there were an estimated 26,000 unaccompanied child refugees somewhere in Europe,” he said.

“Later figures suggest there could be as many as 95,000.

“These young people are sleeping rough in Calais or in Greece. They are vulnerable, liable to be trafficked or forced into prostitution. Britain should take them in.”

MPs rejected the first version of the amendment, which called for 3,000 refugees to be let in, last week. The House of Lords had accepted it.

The Lords have now put forward a “softer” version that doesn’t specify a number. A vote on it is expected in the Commons on Monday.

“Even 3,000 seems a low number, but I’ve dropped the number and now it’s about the principle,” said Dubs.

“I’m cautiously optimistic. Labour, the Lib Dems and the Scottish National Party all support it, and a number of Tory MPs voted for it last time. We’re hoping more will this time.”

Revised 

Campaigners are piling on the pressure. Thousands have signed an online petition backing the revised amendment. MPs who voted with the government have faced angry letters and lobbying.

Andrea Jenkins, Tory MP for Morley and Outwood in West Yorkshire, cancelled her surgery last week after pro-refugee campaign We Are Wakefield called a protest outside.

“There’s a lot of pressure on her to change her mind,” We Are Wakefield activist Sally Kincaid told Socialist Worker. “There should be local protests targeting every one of these MPs.”

Dubs agreed. “Migration isn’t always a popular issue,” he said. “But right now this is a popular issue.

“But there isn’t much time, so if you have a Tory MP get onto them quickly.

“Britain took in child refugees before, in 1938-39. I came as a child refugee from Prague in 1938 and that gives me an emotional connection to the issue.

“But there’s a logical and a humanitarian case for it that has nothing to do with me personally.

“Every once in a while a very serious issue comes before us, and we either respond in a humanitarian way or we slam the door on people. This is one of those times.”

Sign the petition at chn.ge/1NiB6rq

More migrants die as European Union states continue their clampdown

Almost 100 African migrants are feared dead after two shipwrecks on Friday of last week.

The United Nations refugee agency UNHCR reported “some 15 persons went missing” in the wreck of a boat carrying around 120 people from Libya to Italy.

In a separate incident also off Libya an inflatable boat sank. Only 26 people out of around 110 were rescued, with the rest feared dead.

The European Union and its member states have blocked off safer routes and forced refugees onto the sea. Meanwhile repression continues on the Greek islands.

Dozens of detainees were rounded up into buses last week and transferred out of the Vial camps on Chios, which has seen continual resistance.

Refugees in the Moria camp on Lesvos protested against the conditions, burning bins and throwing rocks.

French cops fought hundreds of migrants to drive them from their camp under the Stalingrad Metro in Paris station on Monday.

Many politicians would like Europe to adopt a system similar to Australia’s, where migrants are interned long term in offshore camps.

Two refugees have set themselves on fire in a desperate act of protest at the Nauru island camp.

Omid, a 23 year old Iranian man died shortly after his self-immolation on Friday of last week.

Hadon, a 21 year old Somali woman set herself alight a few days later.

The government was forced to announce the closure of its camp on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea (PNG) last week.

PNG’s supreme court found it was illegal.


Take action on immigration detention

Immigration detention centres around Britain were set to face protests this Saturday.

They are part of a day of action called by the Movement for Justice.

And campaigners across Britain are preparing for a huge solidarity convoy on Saturday 18 June to Calais where refugees are trapped by Britain’s border blockade.

Go to standuptoracism.org.uk to get involved

Mass arrests at German AfD protest

Up to 2,000 anti-racists demonstrated outside the conference of far right party AfD in the German city of Stuttgart last Saturday. Police arrested 600 people to stop them blocking the entrance.

Protesters chanted “Refugees can stay—Nazis out”.

The AfD has called for migrants crossing German borders to be shot, and has links to Nazi organisations.

Though founded as a Eurosceptic party, the AfD increasingly focuses on overt racism against refugees—and particularly against Muslims.

Its conference voted to harden its Islamophobia.

“Islam is foreign to us and for that reason it cannot invoke the principle of religious freedom to the same degree as Christianity,” said Hans-Thomas Tillschneider, recently elected to the Saxony-Anhalt state parliament, to loud applause.

 


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