Refugees and Migrants from Asia and Africa — Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:59 pm on 9th July 2015.

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Photo of Lord Judd Lord Judd Labour 3:59 pm, 9th July 2015

My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord about the need for solidarity with the people of Greece.

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Alton, as others have, for having given us the opportunity for this important debate. But the awful truth is that the scale of the problem with which we are dealing will be dwarfed by what lies ahead. The consequences of climate change, the movement of peoples, and unresolved conflicts and tensions are not going to abate, and we are going to see an acceleration in the issues that face us. But there is one other issue that we have to face, particularly in this House. If we are intent on a world based on the market and the free movement of capital and goods, how on earth will we stem the inevitable movement of people that flows from that? People will go to where the centres of economic activity are strongest. This is inevitable, and we are just burying our head in the sand if we pretend otherwise.

That brings home to us that we have a global responsibility that is second to none in helping to build and strengthen the economies of the people of the world as a whole, and in ensuring that we are not consuming the wealth and raw resources of the world in a completely selfish way that accentuates the awful reality of life for the majority of people in the world.

We must, as has been mentioned in the debate, show a sense of respect for what others are doing. I like to raise my glass at meals to the people of Italy. They have demonstrated that they are the soul of Europe at its best. That gives us something to ponder here in the United Kingdom. We also have to remember the fortitude and generosity of the people of Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey, who, with their own comparative economic disadvantage, are opening their arms to welcome those fleeing conflict in Syria and elsewhere. Of course, they have been doing this—but for how long will they do this? There are already indications, certainly in Lebanon and Jordan, that people are beginning to say, “Look at our own plight. How can we go on carrying this burden?”. And that spells still more trouble ahead.

I very much welcome and was cheered by—not, I may say, for the first time in my life—the thoughts of my noble friend Lady Kinnock. For me, she brought alive the terrible human reality of what we are talking about. We get awfully insulated in this Chamber. Here we are in this fine, beautiful building talking about these problems, but as we talk, people are drowning; as we talk, people are gasping for breath; as we talk, people are uttering their last breath, dying of starvation and in pain; as we talk, the torture and brutality that force people to move and leave is taking place. We need to keep in our mind that vivid picture of what the reality is, because in this Chamber we can become very abstract in our discussions.

We should also in this context put on record our appreciation of those who work so hard and consistently on our behalf in the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, UNRWA, UNICEF, the Red Cross and all the other international institutions. We should take very seriously the thoughts and experience of our own voluntary agencies, which represent so often, together with their supporters and followers, the Britain to which I am sure many of us want to belong—the Britain with real heart and concern, the Britain that feels it belongs in the world, the Britain that recognises that it cannot escape from the world and the Britain which is therefore determined not just to talk about the problems with which we are confronted but to commit itself to finding the common solutions which are necessary if we are to begin to challenge such situations.

I have one absolute conviction which I think has become an obsession; we are utterly interdependent with the world and our leadership, of whatever political persuasion—I hope that those who are offering themselves for leadership in my own party are taking this seriously—will in future be judged by how they enabled this country to join the world, to belong to the world and to play its part together with others in finding the solutions that are necessary for humanity, because, believe you me, there is no way in which in the long term the well-being of the British people can be secured without fulfilling that partnership in international community.