Lord Alf Dubs was one of 10,000 children rescued from the Nazis by the Kindertransport. Today he will call for Theresa May to match pre-war Britain’s humanity by allowing 10,000 refugee children to come to the UK.
Lord Dubs will be joined by council chiefs prepared to take more unaccompanied refugee children in parliament square today to call on the PM and her successor to allow more unaccompanied children abandoned at the peril of traffickers to have a safe future in the UK.
The charity Safe Passage has organized a demonstration in Parliament Square today at 1.15 – 2.45 to call on the government to match the efforts of pre-war Britain in securing the safety of unaccompanied refugee children living in squalour and danger.
Alf Dubs arrived in Britain aged just six placed on a train from Prague by his Jewish mother who was later able to escape to Britain too to join Alf and his father who had already arrived in the UK.
The train was part of the Kindertransport organized by Sir Nicholas Winton, who helped 669 mainly Jewish children flee Czechoslovakia just before the outbreak of the Second World War.
Lord Dubs spoke exclusively to The London Economic to explain why Theresa May could leave a legacy to live up to her constituent Sir Nicholas Winton, who she alluded to in her resignation speech.
The Prime Minister was rounded on by many for mentioning Winton in her resignation speech, mainly because of the way she has broken promises to host the unaccompanied child refugees who have become known as the “Dubs children.”
In 2016, after a long campaign by the Labour peer, the Conservative government consented to what became known as the “Dubs amendment” to the 2016 Immigration Act.
However outrage greeted Theresa May reducing the number from 3,000 to just 350 children at the height of the refugee crisis where countless parentless children were destitute all over Europe.
And even though councils insisted that they could accommodate more and the number was upped, reports have emerged of the Home Office reneging on its commitments with just 200 so far accepted.
Lord Dubs and council chiefs are today calling for Theresa May and her successor to stop turning at risk refugee children away.
This is why the 86-year-old former chair of Labour peers was among many who took exception to May’s reference to her constituent Sir Nicholas Winton in her resignation speech to justify her failed Brexit approach.
Theresa May told the press outside Number 10: “For many years the great humanitarian Sir Nicholas Winton, who saved the lives of hundreds of children by arranging their evacuation from Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia through the Kindertransport, was my constituent in Maidenhead.
“At another time of political controversy, a few years before his death, he took me to one side at a local event and gave me a piece of advice.
“He said, ‘Never forget that compromise is not a dirty word. Life depends on compromise.’
“He was right.”
Lord Dubs immediately reacted on Twitter: “Nicky Winton did not compromise. He was resolute in his determination to save refugee children like me.”
He added: “I hope that before she steps down Theresa May will honour Nicky’s memory by welcoming more unaccompanied refugee children from France, Italy and Greece.”
Many years after his rescue as a young child, Alf Dubs was able to thank Sir Nicholas Winton, who died in 2015, aged 106.
“I got know Nicholas Winton quite well,” said the Labour peer. “I met him soon after his actions came out on TV and we became good friends.
“Theresa May was his MP and they knew each other though their politics were very different. And now as a gesture she could take some more kids and show the generosity Britain showed us in 1938 and 1939. She could still do something for them in the time she has left.”
Lord Dubs, who says he received a warm welcome when he arrived in the UK aged six, has recently travelled to Northern France and Greece to find out about the plight of unaccompanied minors.
“Just a few weeks ago I travelled to Calais and Dunkirk to meet people surviving in makeshift camps in the woods and tents on the sides of motorways. Organisations estimate there are hundreds of unaccompanied minors in Northern France, some as young as ten,” said Lord Dubs.
“We saw children sleeping homeless in tents, children with just canvas protecting them, many very vulnerable unaccompanied young people.”
Lord Dubs outlined the dangers they face, saying that many children who want to come to the UK in Northern France go missing.
“They are vulnerable to abuse, trafficking and prostitution. In the refugee camp on the Greek Island of Lesbos, we were told there was not enough security and boys were getting raped in the camp at night.”
Lord Dubs and the Safe Passage charity are today highlighting pledges from councils to take over 1,200 unaccompanied minors.
And the lifelong refugee advocate wants the government to go forward and now on the eightieth anniversary, match the legacy of the Kindertransport that saved him for a new generation of child refugees today.
On the eve of World War II, the UK took in around 10,000 predominantly Jewish children from Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia and Poland. Many went to British foster homes, hostels, schools and farms. Some were the only members of their families who survived the Holocaust.
“We have already got pledges from local authority leaders – who will be addressing Parliament Square too – pledges for nearly 1,200 places. The pledges are not just from Labour-led local authorities, but Conservative ones too,” said Lord Dubs
“And I’ve spoken to council leaders who would support our call for 10,000 children to come to the UK to match what Britain did in 1938 and 1939.”
Lord Dubs added that councils have been given more funds for refugees and Britain was more able to help its fair share of refugees.
The Home Office appears to be reneging on their commitments, with recent reports that only nine more children from Northern France are set to join just 200 admitted to date under the Dubs scheme.
Charities have warned conditions have reached a crisis point since the shanty town of the Calais Jungle was destroyed by French authorities.
Clare Moseley from Care4Calais recently described conditions in Northern France for people trying to come to the UK: “People are sleeping rough with no access to sanitation or shelter and under continual harassment from the police. Every day they say that they want to be safe, but the harshness of life in Calais leaves them with little hope for the future.
“People do not want to risk their lives and they do not want to enter the UK illegally – they just want their asylum claims to be heard. ”
“I saw people in desperate situations,” added Lord Dubs who visited the charity on his recent fact-finding trip.
“With the Kindertransport, in just one year pre-war Britain took 10,00 children. Surely, we can mark the eightieth anniversary with a pledge to take the same amount in ten years.”