Jewish Refugees from the Middle East and North Africa

Part of Modern Slavery Act: Independent Review – in Westminster Hall at 5:32 pm on 19th June 2019.

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Photo of Andrew Percy Andrew Percy Conservative, Brigg and Goole 5:32 pm, 19th June 2019

Thank you, Mr Hollobone, for calling me to speak; I nearly said, “Sir Philip”, as I am sure it is just a matter of time before you are called that. It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship.

I of course congratulate my right hon. Friend Theresa Villiers on securing this debate and on everything she said. I associate myself entirely with her comments and with other comments, particularly those by Jim Shannon about the declaration that we would like to see this Government make, which would bring us into line—as I believe a number of speakers have said—with both the United States and Canada.

I was not planning to speak in this debate, as the time for it is short, but now I have been given the opportunity I will, of course, take it. I will say something about the importance of education regarding this particular issue. That is because, as I said in my intervention earlier and as we saw in the awful tweet from Abdullah in Bristol last night—speaking as I am now, he will probably think, as he also tweeted, that I too am a political figure on the “Zionist payroll”—there is a false narrative that has been created that Israel is a European and western creation, and that it is anathema in the middle east. However, we absolutely know—not only because of the thousands of years of history and heritage of the Jewish people in the middle east and north Africa, but because of recent history, as has been outlined during this debate—that the Jewish presence in the middle east is a living history that goes back to before the creation of the state of Israel, and there are many in the Jewish community who doubtless would have liked to continue to live their lives in north Africa and other parts of the middle east but are prevented from doing so today.

The lack of understanding of the history of Jewish refugees from elsewhere in the middle east and north Africa is perhaps part of the reason why so many people who pronounce on the issue of Israel are so ignorant in making the offensive comments and statements they make, and it is also why this debate is so important.

Of course, Yemen has been referred to; I will just make a very brief comment on it for the Minister to respond to when he speaks. There is a very small Yemeni Jewish community left, of—possibly—only about 70 people. Previously I have written and said on the Floor of the House of Commons that those Jews who are left in Yemen have been subjected to the most awful abuses and threats. One family in particular, whose representatives came to see me, live in fear. Only the father goes out to shop; his daughters have been threatened with rape by their Arab neighbours. This is a really dire situation; as I say, there are fewer than a hundred Jews left in Yemen.

A former immigration Minister—the Minister without Portfolio, my right hon. Friend Brandon Lewis—tried to be as helpful as possible on this issue, but I hope that the Minister who is here today, the Minister for the Middle East, will also look at it.