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Former MP Alf Dubs, was guest speaker at a Labour Party event in Banbury last weekend and described his experiences last year visiting the refugee camp in Calais, and seeing first hand the migrant crisis in Greece and Italy.
Alf was a child of the Kinders transport trains and previously Labour MP for Battersea. In 2016 he sponsored an amendment to the Immigration Act 2016 to offer unaccompanied refugee children safe passage to Britain. The ‘Dubs Amendment’ as it became known was originally accepted by the government but abandoned in 2017 with the UK having accepted only 350 children out of a planned 3000.
“The government were not being honest about how many refugee children we could take. They were claiming that local authorities could not cope; but several councils were saying that they had not been asked and could take them.”
“Let your voice be heard. The best way people could help was to put pressure on their MPs and local authorities. I know that many Tory MPs and councillors, as well as Labour, are unhappy with the Government position.”
Alf explained that in 1938/39 the UK had taken in 10,000 unaccompanied child refugees from Austria and Germany. Last year ‘Save The Children’ had estimated that there were 95,000 unaccompanied child refugees in Europe, sleeping rough or in ramshackle accommodation, potential victims of traffickers.
On a visit to Calais had been shocked by the depressing situation in the refugee camp, though had been tremendously impressed by the dedicated support being given by the helpers, mainly young women, who were sacrificing much in order to help the refugees.
Alf also drew attention to the situation in Greece and in Italy. He had visited Thessaloniki and had found things worse than in Calais.
The “Dubs Amendment” has been proposed in response and was passed in the Lords despite Alf being asked by Teresa May to withdraw it.
When it came to the Commons Alf had sat in the gallery opposite the government benches and had“given them the eye”. However, despite this, the government won the vote. Alf claims that Teresa May smirked.
Because of“financial privilege” (the measure involved expenditure implications) the amendment went back to the Lords, which passed the amendment again, this time with a larger majority. This was followed by a public outcry in support and Teresa May told Alf, presumably facing the inevitable, that the government were prepared to accept the amendment.
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