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Refugees and Human Rights

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:39 pm on 24th January 2018.

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Photo of Emily Thornberry Emily Thornberry Shadow Foreign Secretary 1:39 pm, 24th January 2018

The hon. Lady is quite right. Unfortunately, far too many journalists around the world are killed for reporting abuses of human rights. I join her in paying tribute to them.

I was talking about Thurgood Marshall’s anniversary, which gives us an opportunity to celebrate the life of this great human rights hero. In three days’ time, we are going to mark another anniversary. Unfortunately, there is no such cause for celebration, but it is central to our discussion. On Saturday, it will be a year since our Prime Minister held hands with Donald Trump just hours before he signed the executive order banning Muslim refugees from America. That was an act devoid of compassion by a President incapable of shame, and the start of a long and painful year of similar acts on the global stage.

We have now reached the stage where Donald Trump can describe the countries of the continent of Africa, including 19 of our Commonwealth cousins, as “shitholes”—and there is not a peep of protest from our Government. Instead, they continue to insist that Her Majesty the Queen, the head of the Commonwealth, must welcome him into her home. Perhaps next time the Foreign Secretary talks about “supine invertebrate jellies” he should take a good look at himself in the mirror.

However, Donald Trump’s behaviour has had one important consequence that goes to the heart of the motion. Last week, a Gallup poll revealed that in the past year global approval of American leadership had fallen to 18%, the lowest in the history of the survey. That leaves a massive void waiting to be filled by a country—so what about us? What about a country such as ours? Are we prepared to take the lead internationally on conflict resolution, climate change, human rights and the refugee crisis? Are we are prepared not just to wring our hands about the suffering of the Rohingya, the Yemeni people and the Palestinian refugees, but to do something—to take a global lead—to end that suffering? Are we prepared to stand up to Donald Trump and tell him clearly that he is not just wrong on UN funding cuts, climate change and refugees, but simply unfit to govern? That is the action we need to take, that is the policy the Labour party stands on and that is the message that this motion sends. I commend it to the House.