Christine Jardine: What happened to our humanity, our open arms and our desire to give children the best start in life?

Christine Jardine spoke movingly in a parliamentary debate this week about the plight of refugee children separated from their families. She called on the UK Government to make it easier for refugee children to find their families and to reunite these families.

Here’s her speech in full.

Imagine having to say goodbye to your child, or finding yourself suddenly separated from them without knowing what will happen to them, whether anyone will look after them or whether they will find the rest of your family, if you still have one. That is the situation facing parents among the 22 million refugees across the world. Families are fleeing war or persecution, looking for nothing more than safety and somewhere to live together in peace. Recently, I visited the Red Cross in Scotland and met families who came to this country looking for that very peace and sanctuary. They are now living together in Scotland and making a valuable contribution to their communities. However, we know that it is not the same for all families; for many, things have become impossible.

As a nation, we have been moved by photographs such as the one mentioned by the hon. Member for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill (Hugh Gaffney)—pictures of children who have lost their lives or been orphaned because of the conflict in Syria. In the Holocaust Memorial Day debate, we heard moving stories from hon. Members about the flight of their families from Nazi persecution and the sanctuary they found here, yet our approach to reuniting refugee families and immigration procedures is one that I, for one, find depressing. What happened to our humanity, our open arms and our desire to give children the best start in life, regardless of geography?

As we have heard, the EU’s Dublin III regulation determines which EU state decides a person’s asylum application. In 2016, under the regulation’s criteria, 700 children were transferred from other European countries to join family members in the UK, but none of us knows what the situation will be after Brexit. We need the UK Government to improve the system to make it easier for children to find their families. They need to amend the immigration rules on refugee family reunions to make it easier for close family members—siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles—with refugee or humanitarian protection status to sponsor children in their family to join them in the UK. They also need to lessen the conditions that must be met by non-refugee sponsors, and help with legal aid for refugee family reunions.

All parents, especially single parents, know that horrible feeling that can creep up on us in the middle of the night. It hits us when someone in our family dies or when we sit watching the evening news and see pictures of families fleeing, children separated from their parents and empty, hopeless faces staring out of the screen. We think, “Who would look after my child if something happened?” I think about it even though my daughter is now an adult. When I do, I am grateful that I have a family, so there are people who will love and look ​after her. Surely that is what we all want for our children, and surely we should want our Government to do their best to provide that sanctuary for every child.

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4 Comments

  • roger roberts 24th Feb '18 - 10:23am

    .We owe the Middle East every possible support – we drew the boundary lines !.My dilemma – is it better to keep diplomatic relations with Russia, Iran etc (keep talking) or to suspend these diplomatic relations ? To keep bombing innocent men, women and children whilst denying them humanitarian aid and access can be nothing less than evil. The UK can immediately open its door to accepting more refugees, it can forbid any licence to sell chemicals that have destructive potential or any armament sales, directly or indirectly, to those countries involved in this Syrian conflict, it must find a way of sending food, medicines etc to the victims of this catastrophe.In the long term we must rebuild the UN and the Security Council so that they can be more effective (60 years after their formation) in tackling such crises.I’m sure there are many better ideas – please share them with us.

  • Europe should totally open its borders. The rich countries like Germany, France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Sweden, Norway, UK and Denmark can accept several million more refugees each. This would get rid of the refugee camps in Turkey, Greece, Italy and Africa. Most of the refugees are hard working people, well educated with professional skills which are desperately need in Europe. The violence, rape or crime that is reported against refugees is fake news and not true and caused by right wing racist groups. They are thankful to come to Europe and do not break the laws and very happy to assimilate.

  • Peter Hirst 26th Feb '18 - 4:06pm

    If we leave the eu, it is an opportunity to regain our position as a country that respects humanitarian concerns and acts when it is within its power and capacity to do so. We used to be respected for this and though our capacity might have decreased, there is much we can and must do to gain the respect of the global community in this regard. As well as for its own sake, this will improve or standing in the world with all the benefits that go with that.

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