The SNP’s Angus Robertson really ruffled David Cameron’s feathers at Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) on Wednesday. On Monday night, Cameron instructed his MPs to vote against taking in 3,000 unaccompanied refugee children. Seeing as only five Conservative MPs disobeyed the party line, we are now leaving 3,000 lone children to suffer.
At PMQs, Robertson’s second question drew comparisons between Syrian refugees today and Jewish refugees in the 1930s:
We’ve got children adrift, children that have disappeared, children vulnerable to being lured into prostitution, vulnerable coerced into some form of slavery. It’s a pretty desperate situation.
The UK is one of the richest nations in the world yet we’re now going to stand by and let unaccompanied children fall into a life of abuse. The Queen could probably save them all just by selling her hat.
Robertson’s comparison to the 1930s is apt. There were thousands of refugee children before the Second World War. And there are thousands of refugee children now. Whatever their nationality, and whatever the causes, the crux is the same – there are thousands of unaccompanied children drifting around Europe. The question is the same – do we help them, or will we leave them to suffer? Unlike his predecessors, Cameron has opted for the latter, after paying lip service to the former:
The world has lost a great man. We must never forget Sir Nicholas Winton's humanity in saving so many children from the Holocaust.
— David Cameron (@David_Cameron) July 1, 2015
One of those refugee children in the 1930s was Lord Dubs himself, who tabled the motion on Monday night. He arrived in Britain through the ‘Kindertransport’ initiative – a program for refugee children fleeing Germany, Czechoslovakia and Austria before the Second World War.
When asked if today’s government would take in those 10,000 refugees – including himself – Lord Dubs replied:
It’s a very hypothetical question … I think this lot wouldn’t have, this lot would’ve probably said no.
Considering the government has just voted to reject a mere one-third of that number, it’s a fair comment.
Twitter hailed Robertson for getting straight to the heart of the issue:
That was a towering moment of statesmanship by @AngusRobertson on child refugees. Exactly the right tone, exactly the right questions.
— Ian Dunt (@IanDunt) April 27, 2016
It was a very pertinent question:
— norman smith (@BBCNormanS) April 27, 2016
And Cameron’s answer is precisely what escalates the refugee crisis:
The person who is responsible is the country in which they are in.
The refugee crisis is a disorganised mess because of this type of attitude. Basing policy on where refugees happen to end up is an entirely incompetent position. If you outsource responsibility to contingent geographical circumstance, you end up with overflowing camps likes in Calais.
Former footballer Jermaine Jenas nailed the right response on Question Time in March – the crisis should be handled on a “pro rata basis”. It should be EU policy that a country takes a certain number of refugees according to its economic position. Isn’t that type of cohesive action what the EU is for?
At PMQs, Cameron continued:
And look, I want Britain to play our part, but you have to ask yourself, do we do better taking a child from France or Italy or Germany, than we do from Lebanon?
Aside from Libyan and Iraqi people, there are more than 4.5 million Syrian refugees in just five countries – Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt. And these refugees are often in terrible conditions. Meanwhile, the rest of the world has only offered to settle a miserly 3.6% (162,151) of this number. It is absolutely disgraceful.
Angus Robertson is right. We can, and should, do so much more.
Sign Lord Dub’s petition calling on the government to accept the 3,000 unaccompanied refugee children.
Volunteer or donate to the refugees in Calais.
Featured image via Youtube screenshots.
We need your help ...
The coronavirus pandemic is changing our world, fast. And we will do all we can to keep bringing you news and analysis throughout. But we are worried about maintaining enough income to pay our staff and minimal overheads.
Now, more than ever, we need a vibrant, independent media that holds the government to account and calls it out when it puts vested economic interests above human lives. We need a media that shows solidarity with the people most affected by the crisis – and one that can help to build a world based on collaboration and compassion.
We have been fighting against an establishment that is trying to shut us down. And like most independent media, we don’t have the deep pockets of investors to call on to bail us out.
Can you help by chipping in a few pounds each month?