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UK - Lord Dubs : refugees face greater hostility than ever in 2017

Publié le 28-12-2016

Source : www.theguardian.com

Auteur : Matthew Taylor

« Labour peer who forced government to help unaccompanied minors says rise of rightwing movements means vulnerable children face a perilous future.

Refugees seeking sanctuary in Europe will face an increasingly hostile environment in the coming year, according to the Labour peer Alf Dubs, who predicts governments will turn their backs on those fleeing war and persecution in the face of resurgent anti-immigrant movements across the continent.

Lord Dubs, who in 1939 was brought to Britain from Czechoslovakia on one of the Kindertransport trains, said he feared the rise of rightwing anti-immigrant movements, combined with upcoming elections in France, Germany and the Netherlands, meant tens of thousands of vulnerable child refugees faced a difficult future.

“The situation for refugees in Europe is going to get harder, bleaker, in the next 12 months because more are still coming from Syria or across the Med and the attitudes of European governments are hardening as they focus on upcoming elections and the growing challenge from the right in their own counties,” Dubs said.

In April Dubs forced through an amendment to the Immigration Act committing the government to helping some of the estimated 88,000 child refugees believed to be travelling unaccompanied through Europe.

But he said anti-foreigner and anti-refugee feeling was being stoked across Europe and too few people were prepared to speak out. “Refugees are people who are fleeing from war, from torture, from fear of death and therefore we owe them a responsibility over and above that which we owe anyone else. It is the highest level of responsibility.”

Dubs became a Labour MP the late 1970s, working on immigration while on the opposition frontbenches, before going on to chair the Refugee Council for seven years. He was made a peer in 1994.

He said that when he saw a Save the Children report this year revealing there were 85,000 unaccompanied children in Europe, he felt compelled to act. “We got word about the numbers of unaccompanied children and I talked about what we should do with friends. I spoke to Yvette Cooper who is working on this in the Commons for Labour and we decided the amendment would be the best course of action.”

Originally the government rejected Dubs’ amendment on the grounds that France, Greece and Italy were safe countries. But Dubs successfully argued that there was a responsibility to share the burden between countries, and the government was forced into a U-turn.

Initially it was hoped that the UK would take around 3,000 unaccompanied children but Dubs said so far only around 900 had arrived from the camp in Calais, which has now been shut down by the French authorities.

Dubs said he was pleased that some children had been helped but said much more needed to be done, for adult refugees as well as unaccompanied children.

“It’s a small effort compared to other countries but the main thing is to keep pressure on, to keep going,” he said.

However, he warned that the task had become harder since the EU referendum campaign and the subsequent vote to leave, which he said had “poisoned the debate” not just around refugees but also immigrants and foreigners.

“The nasty mood post the referendum is pushing the public debate against refugees. I had hoped that if we can be positive about child refugees we can be positive about refugees as a whole, but I fear the result of the referendum has squashed that hope.”

Dubs visited the refugee and migrant camp in Calais this year and witnessed the plight of children and adults trying to survive in horrendous conditions, often risking their lives to jump on trains or lorries bound for the UK.

Since then around 900 unaccompanied children have been brought to the UK, according to Unicef and Save the Children, mostly under the Dublin 3 agreement which allows in those with family in the UK, as well as a few hundred under the Dubs amendment.

However, the charities say there has been much less progress for the tens of thousands of refugee children stranded in Italy and Greece. They met the home secretary, Amber Rudd, this month to put pressure on the government to act and to point out that no children from Greece or Italy were thought to have been transferred to the UK under the Dubs amendment, and that only five had come under the Dublin regulations.

Lily Caprani, Unicef UK’s deputy executive director, said : “Hundreds of vulnerable children have been brought to safety in the UK from France over the last few months – an achievement that we should celebrate – but we must be absolutely clear that the job is not finished.

“The government agreed to the Dubs amendment on the basis that it would end dangerous journeys for children travelling across Europe. If the scheme were to finish before any children in Greece and Italy have reached safety then it will have been a failure.

“If children do not have safe and legal routes to the UK they will continue to make perilous journeys and continue to fall into the hands of smugglers and traffickers.”

Dubs said he was planning to visit Greece in the new year to put pressure on the government to take its share of eligible refugee children stranded there.

“We still have to tackle the children that are in Greece and Italy … I want there to be a proper process to identify the children to see whether they qualify. I don’t think we should take them all but I have always said we should take our share.”

Dubs said that as more and more refugees sought sanctuary in Europe it was critical that governments came to a new agreement to tackle the issue in a coherent and organised way. But he said that prospect appeared more remote than ever.

“I’m not very optimistic about the year ahead. There are a lot of forces at work and not enough people prepared to speak out,” he said. “European countries need to get together and address this issue but I am not at all sure they they will do that. I fear they are going to find better ways of putting up barriers rather than anything else.” »

Voir en ligne : https://www.theguardian.com/society...

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