I thank Edward Miliband and Nadhim Zahawi for securing this debate. Like so many colleagues, I agree that what President Trump has done is absolutely appalling. It is a prejudiced, xenophobic, Islamophobic policy and a horrible, sad episode in the history of a country with such a strong and proud record of welcoming migrants and refugees.
Remarkably, it has not even been six months since President Obama hosted his international summit aimed at encouraging states to pledge more resettlement places for refugees. The background to that summit was that more 65 million people have been forced to flee their homes—the highest number since the second world war—more than 21 million of whom have had to flee their countries altogether. Presciently, President Obama warned world leaders that
“if we were to turn refugees away simply because of their background or religion, or, for example, because they are Muslim, then we would be reinforcing terrorist propaganda that nations like my own are somehow opposed to Islam, which is an ugly lie that must be rejected in all of our countries by upholding the values of pluralism and diversity.”
That of course is exactly the disastrous mistake that President Trump has just made.
In 2015, the US accounted for 60% of global refugee resettlement places. With President Trump in office, it is now more imperative than ever that other Governments step up to the plate, reject the narrative that he has capitulated to, and send a message loud and clear that we will stand up for and defend to the hilt the precious international system for the protection of refugees established by the Geneva convention of 1951. The question is whether the Prime Minster and this Government will step up to the plate. It is fair to say that I have some doubts, but I dearly and sincerely hope to be proved wrong.
The Government can start proving me wrong today by putting on the record their unequivocal backing for the refugee convention, by abandoning talk of redefining the convention’s fundamental terms, by emphasising their commitment to resettle 20,000 vulnerable Syrians. If possible, which it is, they should do more and expand the scope of refugee family reunion and provide safe legal routes for those escaping persecution. Most importantly of all, will the Government commit today to ensuring that the Dubs scheme for relocating unaccompanied child refugees from Europe will remain in operation in the long term while the refugee crisis continues to unfold? What could be a stronger and more fitting rebuke for such a terrible and divisive decision?