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Refugees (Family Reunion) (No.2) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 11:55 am on 16th March 2018.

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Photo of Anna Soubry Anna Soubry Conservative, Broxtowe 11:55 am, 16th March 2018

I, too, am proud to sponsor the Bill. I congratulate Angus Brendan MacNeil, and endorse everything that he said in his excellent speech. I also fully endorse everything that was said by, in particular, my hon. Friend Robert Neill. Ever the lawyer, he made the valid point that the Bill is very modest. It not only improves the existing legislation, but makes it considerably fairer. I join him in saying to Members—notably Conservative Members—that if they feel unable to support it, as I understand may happen, they should nevertheless allow it to proceed to its Third Reading. Any problems can be ironed out before then.

This is a small but incredibly important measure, which also enables us to send a strong signal from the Conservative Benches about the type of Conservative that we are all proud to call ourselves. It is very easy to take a group of people and attach to them a label that dissociates oneself from seeing each and every person in that group as what he or she is: a human being with a story to tell.

Let me remind the House what a refugee is. A refugee is defined as

“A person who has been forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster.”

It is not a free choice. No one wakes up of a morning and says, “I think that today I will leave everything I have ever known and loved for generations, and make myself a refugee.” I will dwell on that in a moment, but first let me pay tribute to my own Conservative local authority, Broxtowe Borough Council.

We have taken in four Syrian families. Not only have we accommodated and provided for them—as well as welcoming them—but we have continued to support them, because each of those four families is in our country for a very good reason. They are not here just because they are refugees, as in my description. At least one member of each family has suffered in a way that goes beyond some of our comprehension. Those family members have been tortured, or have been subjected to some form of sexual abuse, or have a particular medical need which means that the last place they should be is in a refugee camp, or in the sort of accommodation that the Jordanian Government have—rightly—provided. Their need is even greater, and I am proud that we have given them a home in Broxtowe.

I am also proud of the work that our Government have done in respect of the provision of aid for refugees, and not just those fleeing from Syria. In more recent times we have been providing aid for the Rohingya people, and I am proud of our 0.7% record.

When I went to Jordan just over a year ago as a guest of Oxfam, along with Dr Allin-Khan, the reality of meeting a human being—not seeing the label on a group of people, but meeting individuals—was one of the most profound things that has ever happened to me in my life. I met a teacher, a man living in two rooms with his two children and his wife, in the cold, sitting around one of those peculiar gas heaters that are provided. I am going to be very blunt in my description of this remarkable man, because what I saw in his eyes was shame.

He felt almost ashamed that he was living in such circumstances; I am not saying he was a proud man in any way, but I would not be surprised if he was so. This is a real human being; he did not choose to be in those circumstances through any desire other than to escape the real horrors of Syria. He left his job; he left his home. I met other people who had left successful businesses, but it does not matter what class they are, or what trade or skill they might have; they are human beings who fled abominable circumstances. They must have been abominable, otherwise they would not have left, and they scooped up the barest of possessions, as my hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst said. They do not think, “Have I got this piece of paper?” or whatever; they just get the hell out.