Back in the 1990’s I was an aid worker and saw first-hand what terrible places refugee camps are. You can imagine much of it: the discomfort, the dependency on others for everything from food to sanitation, and the chaos. But think of the emotional side of it too. Everyone who lands up in a refugee camp is missing family, friends, and that huge connection that we have to ‘home’.
I strongly feel that the government should be doing more to help refugees, especially unaccompanied children. That is why I supported the sensible and humane proposals brought forward by my Labour colleague Lord Dubs. Sadly these amendments were defeated as a result of the Conservative Parties majority in the House of Commons, however further pressure did lead to a compromise amendment being accepted where we will be taking in more unaccompanied child refugees, however Ministers have refused to name a figure as yet.
Regarding the crisis more broadly, I met with the UK representative of the UN’s High Commission for Refugees in April to ask whether he felt that the UK was doing enough to meet its commitments, both here in the UK and in supplying aid and resources for the various refugee camps across Europe. I also challenged the immigration minister on whether the government was following through on promises it had made to help communities support refugees.
The Dubs amendment is incredibly important and I will be fighting the government at every step over this.
I sported implementation of the Dubs amendment and in fact we got assurances in the Commons that more action will be taken. I have also taken other steps to hold the Government to account, speaking out many times in Parliament including directly questioning the Prime Minister over her support of the UNHCR (United Nations High Commission for Refugees) pushing her to offer greater support to what is an extremely overstretched organisation.
Our own city has made provision and has done so in a way that does not prevent us looking after people already living here who are vulnerable- the issue of homelessness and rough sleeping, for example, is not the fault of refugees it’s the fault of central government policies on funding and resource allocation so it is not a choice between helping one or the other, we as a wealthy nation can and should do both. I, for on, will continue to fight for just that.