Refugees and Human Rights

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:49 pm on 24th January 2018.

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Photo of Kevin Foster Kevin Foster Conservative, Torbay 3:49 pm, 24th January 2018

It is a pleasure to follow my former friend from the Backbench Business Committee, Gavin Newlands. [Interruption.] I am glad to hear that he is still my friend. I welcome this debate. To be fair to the Opposition Front-Bench team, it is welcome that the motion is one on which we can reach relative consensus, while we discuss the many issues that it raises.

When we discuss human rights—Jim Shannon is in Westminster Hall talking about the freedom of religious belief—it is important that those of us with a faith of our own stand up for the right of those who do not have a religious faith to hold that belief as well. It is as much a right to say, “Actually, I do not have a religious belief.” as it is to practise one’s faith. Sadly, as we saw when Open Doors published its latest watch list last week, there are still far too many countries where the simple act of professing one’s faith as a Christian can bring death or severe retribution and punishment. The point I make regularly is that it is no coincidence that the regimes where leaders like to put themselves in God’s place are also countries that clamp down on every other form of personal freedom and on human rights.

I wish to focus on conflict resolution, which, rightly, is mentioned in the motion today. It is easy to look at what has gone wrong in the international system—some of the intractable problems with which the UN does not seem able to grapple—and miss the greatest achievement of the UN, which is that the major industrialised powers have not gone to war since 1945. There has not been the same type of major conflict across the globe in which, sadly, our grandfathers and great grandfathers had to fight, and in which those on the home front also had to suffer. That has been achieved by the creation of a clear rules-based system that allows many disputes to be resolved, including working in regional groups such as the African Union and also the western military alliance in the form of NATO. We can think of the role of peacekeeping. Our own forces have spent many decades in Cyprus as part of the mission there. Although there is not yet a permanent solution and there are still long-running and very serious issues to be resolved, our forces are still working effectively to ensure that the fighting and killing in that dispute are now, thankfully, a distant memory.

Importantly, we should see conflict resolution as about not just ending warfare, but being part of long-term rebuilding process, which is where our aid budget comes in. There is little point going into a place where there has been conflict and instability, with whatever has motivated that, and almost enforcing a peace in the hope that everything will turn out all right. It is about making sure that we have a long-term commitment to the area as well.

Let me look now at how things have changed. On Friday, I will be in my constituency with a lady called Isabella Webber, who is a holocaust survivor—one of the last ones still living in Torbay. It is hard to think that, in her lifetime, as she was growing up, she saw a situation in which might was seen to be right. It was a time in which a Government thought that they could legalise genocide and in which its main actors could hide behind the system of international law, and just walk out the door and abandon the situation completely. Thankfully, the Nuremburg tribunals set a new basis for international law, as did the UN Charter and the way in which the main nations of the world have related to each other since then. That is why this motion is welcome. There are still challenges, but we have come a long way in conflict resolution. I welcome the work that the Government and other nations do to make this a reality for so many people today.