Refugees and Human Rights

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:06 pm on 24th January 2018.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Alistair Burt Alistair Burt Minister of State (Department for International Development) (Jointly with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office), Minister of State (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) (Joint with the Department for International Development) 2:06 pm, 24th January 2018

I gave a response on UNRWA. We are in conversation with others about resources. We are concerned about any withdrawal rather than withholding of funds—that is a matter of great concern. Our contribution this year was £50 million. Other contributions have not yet been assessed, but it is vital that UNRWA’s work continues.

Finally—the House has been generous with its time—may I conclude on Lebanon? I have been to Lebanon and have seen the work that DFID is doing there, particularly in relation to education. I met Minister Hamadeh, the Lebanese Education Minister. A number of colleagues may have seen mention this week of the Lebanon education forum. Lebanon, like Jordan, works double shifts to accommodate Syrian refugees in its schools. We have provided substantial support for this process, and our work is orientated towards supporting refugees where they are as much as possible, because that gives them the best chance to return. The stability of Lebanon matters hugely to the United Kingdom. It has come through a difficult time, and it appears that Prime Minister Hariri’s position has been strengthened as a result of recent experiences. There are elections to come; the security of Lebanon matters; and it is important that Hezbollah does not increase its influence in relation to that or other regional issues, which was the purpose of a dissociation agreement that was recently signed.

My right hon. Friend the Minister for Asia and the Pacific will respond to the debate, and he will deal with climate change in more detail. I have mentioned violence against women and girls and modern slavery. I could also mention lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights, which are increasingly important for the United Kingdom to stress—we will continue to do so—and freedom of religion and belief. Lady Hermon is in the Chamber, but her colleague, Jim Shannon, a consistent advocate on this issue in the middle-east region, is not. If he were, he would want to hear again that the UK is determined to make sure that freedom of religion and belief assumes even greater importance.

All our experience in the middle east shows that a lack of tolerance is at the heart of so much and that the lack of tolerance of one faith for another is the breeding ground for so much that can then be exploited. This is not a minor issue of interest only to those who have faith, but a matter of interest to those who understand that this is a region where faith matters so much and impacts so much on everyone and that it has to be much further up our agenda in the west than perhaps it has been. We are determined to do all we can on that.

In conclusion, humanity is measured not by the strength of the strongest, but by the vulnerability of the vulnerable. The Government’s vision is of a world where no one is left behind and where all women and men, girls and boys—no matter who or where they are—have equal opportunity to realise their rights, to achieve their full potential and to live in dignity, free from extreme poverty, exclusion, stigma, violence and discrimination. That is central to the UN’s global goals and to securing a prosperous world. We are a big-hearted, open-minded and far-sighted nation—all of us—and our foreign policy reflects that.