By Tomáš Tengely-Evans
Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 2526

Child who fled Hitler in the 1930s now tells Theresa May – let in the refugees

This article is over 5 years, 3 months old
Issue 2526

A man who fled the Nazis and came to Britain as a child refugee has slammed the Tories for locking out today’s refugee children.

Retired professor Leslie Brent told Socialist Worker, “In the 1930s Neville Chamberlain’s ­government had come under pressure from Jewish and other groups to let us in.

“It saved my life—my family were all killed in the Holocaust.”

Brent spoke alongside Labour peer Alf Dubs last Friday at the London monument to the 1938-9 Kindertransport trains that brought them both to Britain.

It was part of a day of action to get children stuck in the Calais “jungle” brought to Britain.

The Tories paint ­immigrants as a drain on society. But Brent’s work on ­immunology helped improve medicine for ­everyone.

“When I began working in the field in 1951, we didn’t think it possible to do organ ­transplants,” he explained. “Since then it’s been transformed.”

Brent said, “I don’t know anyone who came on the Kindertransport who hasn’t made a contribution.”

He added, “While there is a wave of prejudice, many people would welcome refugees.

“Demonstrations like this, voicing our opinions—and in the end voting out this government—can help push xenophobia back.”

The situation for those in Calais could get even worse when the jungle is demolished. It is an outrage that the Tories lock them out.

“The government should be more generous,” said Brent. “We can take them in, we are a rich country.”

‘Children in Calais must be brought here safely – like I was’

As the demolition of the “jungle” shantytown in Calais looms, the Tories are coming under increasing fire for abandoning refugees including young children.

British officials were in Calais this week identifying children, who have families in Britain, who will be let into Britain. Around 100 children, out of more than 1,000 children and 9,000 adults in Calais, are expected to be brought over.

The first round arrived on Monday. On the same day the first giant concrete slabs of the new wall the Tories are funding in Calais went up between the jungle and the motorway.

Home secretary Amber Rudd claimed she was doing all that was possible for the children in a short space of time. This was a filthy lie.

Officials ignored attempts by charities in the “jungle” to identify much larger numbers of children. The government chose to send officials at the last minute.

It refuses to take the simplest, quickest and fairest measure—opening the border to let everyone in.

The issue is urgent. The demolition of the whole Calais camp is expected to begin on Monday.

Labour peer Alf Dubs addressed a rally at the Kindertransport monument outside London Liverpool Street station last Friday. It was a part of a day of action called by Stand Up to Racism.


“I shudder to think of the consequences of the way the camp is being bulldozed,” Dubs told the 250-strong rally. “The children have to be brought here in safety. They have the right to the same opportunities in Britain that I had.”

No-one chooses to live in the squalid, dangerous jungle. They have nowhere else to go.

The French government plans to disperse them to mostly rural areas in centres including converted hangers and barns. The fascist Front National and its allies have held demonstrations against their arrival, though in some places they have faced counter protests. Others among the refugees face deportation. But many refugees driven out may simply return to Calais or one of the other camps in northern France.

The Tories have shown that they know this by pushing ahead with their wall. Construction has been held up for weeks by a legal challenge from local right wing politicians, now overruled.

They argue that if the camp is being demolished there’s no need for a wall. But cops and bulldozers have repeatedly been sent to smash up refugee settlements around Calais. The number of desperate people there is higher than ever.

One man died and another was injured after a train hit them near Dunkirk last Friday. They lived in the Loon-Plage camp that has already been demolished and returned several times.

It brought the number killed by the border so far this year to 15.

The horror at the border will continue as long as it remains closed. Anti-racists must keep up the pressure to force it open.

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