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 appreciate that intervention. I think that many of us on both sides of the House could write books about the problems faced by refugees.

How can any Government who supposedly support human rights and the protection of vulnerable people be sending a woman like the one I have described back to her country, in fear, and at a time when she is battling mental health problems?

Justice First in Stockton backs the Right to Work campaign, which calls for everyone to have the right to work after six months of lodging an asylum claim. This provides dignity and respect for those who want to make a contribution yet whom we still expect to live on a pittance. I share the concerns of Justice First that Brexit may well result in our withdrawal from humanitarian legislation and treaties, and the European convention on human rights, as well as the dismantling of the Human Rights Act 1998. This will have a detrimental effect on its clients and my constituents, and many others too.

Others have talked about examples of voluntary work. Stockton Parish church, Stockton Baptist church and Portrack Baptist church in my constituency, to name just a few, are providing clothing, shelter, English lessons and meals for vulnerable refugees and asylum seekers, really helping them to integrate into their new communities and providing support in their hour of need. Where the Government fail, the volunteers pick up the pieces.

I am an outward-looking person, I am an internationalist, and I share the need of colleagues in all parts of the House to stand up for the vulnerable. We do have that need to play a role on the world stage, influencing, persuading, and often directly intervening to try to bring peace to our world and an end to the conflicts that result in the international crisis we have today. Refugees and asylum seekers are treated like numbers, and it is often forgotten that they are people—people who have been through things in their life that many of us in this Chamber could not even begin to imagine, although some of us have seen that suffering personally. Every one of the 22.5 million people confirmed as refugees is an individual, whether a single young woman trafficked for sex or one of thousands fleeing a war zone. Yes, let us influence at international level and show a lead on human rights, but let us not forget that we also have a duty of care to those who end up on our shores.