Calais: Refugees - Question for Short Debate

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:31 pm on 2nd November 2017.

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Photo of Baroness Morris of Bolton Baroness Morris of Bolton Deputy Chairman of Committees, Deputy Speaker (Lords) 3:31 pm, 2nd November 2017

In July 2016, like many noble Lords taking part in today’s debate, I travelled with my noble friends Lady Jenkin of Kennington and Lady Hodgson of Abinger to the old camp at Calais. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Roberts of Llandudno, for giving us the opportunity to speak on such a crucial subject. We went with UNICEF UK, of which I used to be a trustee, and we were hosted in the camp by Citizens UK volunteers operating as Safe Passage.

It was probably one of the most harrowing and troubling visits I have ever made, one which left its mark on me mentally and physically: physically because I picked up a virulent bacterial infection—I have never seen so many dead rats in my life—and mentally because, although I have visited many refugee camps over the years, I had never before in one place witnessed the shocking human cost of war, terrorism, economic instability and natural disaster. I pay tribute to the NGOs and volunteers who work with refugees for their resilience and their tireless work.

I will never forget the distressing story of one young man who had fled from Syria and had been one of only 30 survivors in a boat that had left Libya with more than 400 people on board. He said that if he could send one message it would be not to make the perilous journey to Europe. While deaths at sea have decreased this year, as at 30 September 2,655 people have died or gone missing while trying to cross the Mediterranean to Europe. That is why I wholly support and applaud the Government’s policy of doing all they can to provide a safe refuge, clean water, education and training in and around countries experiencing strife, especially for victims of the brutal war in Syria. I remind noble Lords of my interest in helping to provide jobs for Syrian refugees in Jordan.

The reality is that thousands of refugees, many of them children, are still placing their lives in the hands of ruthless traffickers and making the dangerous journey to Europe. I urge my noble friend the Minister to ensure that, where there is a legitimate claim, we are doing all we can to help charities working across Europe to reunite children with their family members in the United Kingdom to allow those children the safety and stability they so desperately need.