[Mr Adrian Sanders in the Chair] — Backbench Business — Refugee Camps

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 9:44 am on 22nd July 2014.

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Photo of Meg Hillier Meg Hillier Labour, Hackney South and Shoreditch 9:44 am, 22nd July 2014

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship for the first time, Mr Sanders.

I congratulate my colleague Pauline Lathamon driving forward the desire to have this debate. She and I visited a refugee camp in northern Rwanda and we were both struck by what we saw there. That sparked the idea for this debate.

I want to talk about two issues. I am not as expert as the hon. Lady on the situations in camps around the world, but I do want to talk a bit about my experience visiting Rwanda and, perhaps more pertinent to the Minister’s role, about the UK’s role in resettlement and making sure that we play our part, as a nation, to support and tackle the humanitarian crisis around the world.

As a constituency MP in Hackney South and Shoreditch, the issues in Rwanda and other parts of Africa are pertinent, day to day. I can stand at bus stops in Hackney and have many conversations about the situation at le petit barrier, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, or what is going on in other parts of Africa, particularly west Africa. Partly because of resettlement, which I will come to, these are real, living issues for communities in my constituency and throughout the country.

We visited a camp for Congolese nationals in northern Rwanda. As the hon. Lady said, we were both shocked by some of the things we saw there. It was overcrowded and there was a high number of young people, most of whom had nowhere to go and nothing to do. This is not to be hypercritical of the UNCHR, because it was clear that education was being provided up to age 11 and a few older young people had been provided with education in the community, through support from the Rwandan Government. However, with education only up to age 11, a lot of young people are idle, without the skills necessary to integrate into society and without either families or the support and ability to access anything beyond that stage. There is little education and no skills training.

We met a couple of articulate young men, who spoke both good French and very good English, we felt, and had the benefit of some education beyond the age of 11. They were desperate to play a role as young men, but felt stuck in the limbo of teenage years.