Refugee Crisis in Europe

Part of Bill Presented — Devolution (London) Bill – in the House of Commons at 2:55 pm on 8th September 2015.

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Photo of Gerald Kaufman Gerald Kaufman Father of the House of Commons 2:55 pm, 8th September 2015

I am afraid that the phrase “morally right” is somewhat ambiguous under this Government. My hon. Friend is perfectly right: we do not know what they will do, and one of the reasons we do not know is that they do not know what they will do themselves.

It is not only my city that will be very willing indeed to take in a far larger number of refugees than the Government would propose; it is other cities, too. I have to say, Mr Speaker, I think it is heart-rending. I do not want to dwell on my own personal experience, but my parents were refugees. When I think of people in Europe, I think of what happened to the Jews, and I believe—I am not discrediting anybody else, heaven knows—that Jews have a particular responsibility. I very much wish that the Government had that dimension of empathy that they do not appear to have.

As I have said, the Government funding is insufficient and is limited. That is dreadful. The number of refugees that this Government say they will take—although as my hon. Friend Geraint Davies has pointed out, we do not really know what that number is or is going to be—is derisory compared with Germany, which in the last few days has taken in 17,000 refugees, and with France and other countries.

We will look back on this Government’s mean response to this heart-rending humanitarian crisis and we will be ashamed. This is not the will of the people of this country. Every indication, both nationally and from our constituents, demonstrates that people want to be more generous—that they will feel fulfilled by being more generous. My constituents would be ready—just as, I am sure, the constituents of hon. and right hon. Members on both sides of the House would—to open their doors and receive people who are going through privations and suffering that are very difficult indeed for any of us in this comfortable House, in this comfortable country, even to imagine.

We need an international plan. We need a European plan. The Home Secretary said that European countries are dealing with this in a variety of ways. That is because there is no co-ordination. The European Union ought to have a plan and we ought to try to instigate that plan. This is not something that feeling human beings can tolerate or live with. We need an international plan—a UN plan—and we need a European plan, but above all we need what we certainly do not have: a Government with a heart.