First published by International Business Times, 26th April 2016
Today is a dark one. Today, Tuesday 26 April, we learned that 289 Conservative MPs voted against the Labour proposal that would’ve seen the UK offer asylum to 3,000 unaccompanied refugee children, made homeless by the Syrian crisis. They discarded the last shreds of humanity that might still have clung to the putrefying corpse of this selfish government. They denied 3,000 vulnerable children the chance of safety and dignity in our country.
I’m not alone in my anger, as Labour MPs shouted ‘shame!’ as the result was confirmed andcharities including Save the Children have expressed their dismay at the defeat of the proposal, by just 18 votes.
The cross-party proposal was made by Labour Peer Lord Dubs, who compared it to the ‘Kindertransport’ scheme, a movement and series of rescue efforts that brought children from Nazi-controlled areas of Europe to Great Britain in the nine months before the Second World War. Through Kindertransport, Czech-born Lord Dubs escaped the Holocaust and was able to grow up in safety, attend the London School of Economics, and contribute significantly to public life in Britain, through his work in politics. The defeat of his proposal, backed by cross-party supporters from the Lib Dems and the Greens, prevents Syrian children from having the safety and quality of life that those brought to the UK through Kindertransport were able to enjoy.
The Syrian crisis is real. By providing asylum for some of the many, many children, Britain will not ‘encourage’ more people to make the dangerous journey across Europe. They are making the journey anyway, help or no help provided, because their country is in ruins. We have overwhelming evidence of how hazardous the search for safety is, not least from the image of Alan Kurdi, the drowned Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach resort. This should have served to highlight how desperate the situation in Syria is. The parents of these Syrian children are fleeing from abject horror that most of us cannot imagine. The journey across Europe might be perilous, but it removes them from a warzone.
It all seems so blindingly obvious, but Home Secretary James Brokenshire thinks that if we help some vulnerable children, we will put more in danger. He said “we need to be careful not to inadvertently create a situation in which families see an advantage in sending children ahead, alone and in the hands of traffickers, putting their lives at risk by attempting treacherous sea crossings to Europe”.
Britain could have intervened on behalf of the children at risk right now, but James Brokenshire and the other 288 Tories didn’t want to. To the five Conservative MPs who broke ranks; Geoffrey Cox, Tania Mathis, Stephen Phillips, Will Quince, and David Warburton, I salute you. Thank you for your decency.
As for your friendly neighbourhood clowns who voted against the proposal, including Jeremy Hunt, Boris ‘Obama Is Part-Kenyan‘ Johnson, Theresa May, Maria Miller, Nicky Morgan, Iain Duncan Smith, and Michael Gove. When you read through that list, are you blushing? I sure am, because it makes me completely and utterly ashamed to live in a Britain that voted these people into positions of power. They don’t care about the junior doctors, the students, the disabled, thementally ill, the people who can’t afford to buy their own homes, the people turning to food banks – and they certainly don’t care about defenceless Syrian children whose young lives have been shattered by conflict.
I want to be proud of Britain as a place that will lead by example when global tragedies occur and welcome people who need our help. We have a duty as human beings to reach out to those who are suffering. We had the chance to help 3,000 children, but too many of the people who are meant to represent us refused to extend a hand.
Whatever your political views are and whichever party you support, it’s undeniable that the Dubs proposal was about humanity.
Tuesday’s vote was an illustration of the base selfishness inherent in the Conservative government. They look out for themselves and people like them, and everyone else can suffer and scrabble for the crumbs. Every single person fleeing the Syrian conflict is human. It’s more than can be said for the 294 MPs who voted against Lord Dubs’ proposal.