Refugees and Human Rights

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:53 pm on 24th January 2018.

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Photo of Alex Cunningham Alex Cunningham Labour, Stockton North 3:53 pm, 24th January 2018

I support the motion but I also believe that we have a special role to protect those who seek refuge and support in the UK. We see many countries in the headlines and in the briefing materials, including northern Africa, Afghanistan, Syria and Myanmar, but others are on the move, too. Some people from those countries are trafficked while others, such as the Palestinians, feel like refugees in their own country as more and more of it is illegally annexed.

Our Government need to be a leading voice in efforts to ensure that human rights are protected and upheld around the world, but I worry that we could be shifted to the margins as we take decisions to work less co-operatively and even to cut back on the resources to play our full role.

While I stand in solidarity with the millions of refugees fleeing conflict and war, and urge this Government to do more to stand up for those refugees, I would also like to see a greater focus on the injustices faced by many refugees and victims who seek help here in the UK. A young woman in my constituency is a victim of sex trafficking and is now a refugee as a result. She had travelled to western Europe hoping to pursue her goal to work as a model—a goal shared by so many young people across the world—but it was not to be. She was abducted by two men, kept captive for two months and raped, and then trafficked to the UK. She found herself in another country that she was not familiar with, where she was once again used as a slave for sex—right here in the UK, where it is our responsibility. Yet when she escaped, the British authorities refused her the status of a trafficked victim until my team set them right and she started to get more of the support that she needed.

That young woman now suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and is seeking refugee status. One would think that any compassionate Government would do everything they possibly could to help somebody like that through such a horrific ordeal, yet her case has been refused on the grounds that her home country is judged to be able to provide protection against the persecution of its own nationals. This is not good enough. The Home Office has ignored our arguments that she believes that her own father will kill her should she return home, and that the trafficking organisation has the ability to find and recapture her. Not only that, but she has faced numerous barriers when fighting for the right to stay in the UK. It took 15 months for the Home Office to reach its decision, which means that my constituent has been unable to settle or begin to rebuild her life after going through huge trauma.