Lord Alf Dubs questions Government’s commitment to refugee children
On Saturday 11 March 2017 we welcomed Lord Alf Dubs to our supper club and he 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 Kinderstransport 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.
Alf Dubs said, “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.”
He said, “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.”
Before Alf Dubs spoke, Owen Collins – performance poet – explained that a Refugee Action Group had been formed in Witney. Owen’s first poem was entitled “Adopt a Room” (Video) which told the story of how Witney people had responded to the need of refugees. Accommodation had been provided for several refugee families in Witney, including some basic furnishings. However there were several omissions, for example duvets but no duvet covers, and no curtains. An appeal was made to the community, volunteers chose a room, and within 4 hours all the accommodation had been fully furnished.
His second poem, “The Great Wall of Calais”, (video) was written in response to the Tory government building a wall around the refugee camp in Calais and planting flowers on the outside of the wall. In contrast, the poem celebrated the generous donations made to support refugees, and movingly imagined the building of a metaphorical wall of clothes, bedding, and other necessities.
Photography by Philip Le Mare