Refugees and Human Rights

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:40 pm on 24th January 2018.

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Photo of Julian Knight Julian Knight Conservative, Solihull 3:40 pm, 24th January 2018

It is a great pleasure to follow Dr Allin-Khan, who made an excellent speech. For the past two decades, Great Britain has had an excellent track record of putting its money where its mouth is on human rights and refugees. We are the second-biggest contributor to the United Nations and the sixth-largest donor to its peacekeeping budget. We operate one of the world’s largest conflict resolution funds and we are at the forefront of the global fight against female genital mutilation and modern slavery, not forgetting the seminal work done on eradicating polio.

The international aid budget does have its critics, though. Anyone among us who knocks on doors regularly knows that the country’s commitment to 0.7% of GNI is significant. In certain circles, perhaps owing to misinformation from the likes of the UK Independence party, it is seen that any problem could be solved by redirecting that cash. It is politically brave not to have listened to those siren calls over the past seven years, and we should pay tribute to the Government in that regard. I am proud of our commitment.

Well-judged humanitarian interventions help not just to combat immediate suffering but to head off acute crises that may require much more expensive—perhaps even military—responses. The reach of our aid and our help internationally has very positive effects; we have no idea what could have happened if that was not there. Investing in overseas development can build alliances, change attitudes and help to place British values at the heart of a 21st century in which the west will probably not play as dominant a role as it has in past centuries.

I turn to the effects in my constituency. Although Solihull is far from Calais, it has plenty of experience with refugees and asylum seekers. Birmingham airport is nearby—indeed, it is an important employer for the town. We are also home to one of England’s 14 immigration reporting centres at Sandford House. I am proud to say that, in my experience, that has elicited only a positive response from local residents, many of whom go out of their way to provide comfort and support to people going through the asylum process.

The leadership of the 0.7% pledge has filtered through into the charity community and also within the black, Asian and minority ethnic community. I am involved with several local charities such as Sewa UK that look for DFID’s support in bringing about projects in countries overseas. The challenge is being met and carried on by all groups within our society, and we need to welcome that.