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

It is true that, as a proportion of the United States population, the number of Syrian refugees who have gone there is relatively small. However, as a proportion of those who need support and resettlement, that contribution has been important, so it is very damaging to our international support for refugees for the United States to pull out of that co-operation. That is why the United Kingdom Government have a responsibility, not to just say a few words under pressure in this House, but to raise concerns directly with the US Administration, and why so many Members are concerned and frustrated. The Government delayed making any response or criticism. We hear now that the Prime Minister was told about the ban before it happened on Friday, yet she did not speak out about it, even when the Turkish President, standing alongside her, was prepared to do so. The British Government were prepared, rightly, to raise the issue of human rights with Turkey, but they did not raise concerns about what President Trump was doing.

There are limits to what the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary are prepared to say, even now. When I asked the Foreign Secretary directly whether he had urged the US Administration to drop the ban, he refused to say. Frankly, from everything he did say, we can only conclude that the UK Government still refuse to ask the US Administration to drop this ban, abandon this targeting of Muslims and do their bit again to help refugees. I hope that the Minister will put me right and say that we have got it wrong, and that Ministers have, privately behind the scenes, been urging the US Administration to change their policy. It is crucial that they do so. That is the point of having a special relationship and a good friendship: being able to speak the truth to power and say the difficult things. If Ministers are not prepared to do that, what does that say to British Muslims and others around the world who feel targeted? And what does it say to those whom President Trump may target next? This could be only the start—we do not know. This is what President Trump has done within just a few days of taking office. Where will he go next? What will it take for us to be prepared to speak out, if our Government are not prepared to speak out yet?