Changes in Us Immigration Policy

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:33 pm on 30th January 2017.

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Photo of Yvette Cooper Yvette Cooper Chair, Home Affairs Committee, Chair, Home Affairs Committee 6:33 pm, 30th January 2017

I thank my right hon. Friend Edward Miliband for calling for this Standing Order No. 24 debate, and Nadhim Zahawi for making such a very moving speech on such an important issue.

There is a brave seven-year-old called Bana Alabed, a Syrian refugee who has drawn the support and praise of the whole world for tweeting from Aleppo throughout the bombing—tweeting about her reading, her friends and the fact that she wants to be a teacher, and tweeting a desperate plea for peace. She and her mother are now in Turkey, and she is continuing, as a seven-year-old, to be an ambassador for peace. She has been tweeting again about her wish to meet up with friends from across the world who have supported her in this. Giving a voice to refugees from all over world, she has already met international campaigners and leaders, yet she has been banned from the United States indefinitely for being Syrian—and she is just seven years old. That is the destructive impact of this ban.

With the flick of a pen, the President has banned not only Bana Alabed but a Syrian family who had spent many years building up their savings, got all the visas correct, and been given clearance to come to the United States as refugees to join family in Pennsylvania; they were turned away at Philadelphia airport on Saturday morning and sent back. They had done everything right, but they were turned away. This comes from a country that has always led the world in welcoming the poor, the hungry, those fleeing persecution and the persecuted—the huddled masses—to its shores. That is what makes this Executive order so tragic for all of us.

What is happening right now also feels so tragic because, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster North said in his powerful speech, we cherish the values that the United States has always shared with the world—the values that we, too, have tried to champion. The Executive order bans refugees from Syria indefinitely, those from other countries for at least several months, and everyone from several Muslim countries, but there is a readiness to exempt those who are not Muslims.