Wednesday, 10 February 2016

EU migrants are NOT 'bleeding dry' the NHS

Yesterday's Daily Express front page shouted that Britain should ‘Quit the EU to save our NHS’.

Being part of the EU, the paper claimed, puts an “intolerable strain on the NHS” and it “could collapse completely.”

The same story appeared in an inside feature article of the Daily Mail with the headline, ‘Migrants are pushing NHS to breaking point..’

Monday, 8 February 2016

EU migrants are bringing benefits, not taking them

For reasons that seem mysterious to me, British Prime Minister, David Cameron, wants to put a halt on EU migration to Britain. He thought that stopping benefits would stop them coming, but now the truth is dawning.

In today’s Telegraph it’s been revealed that there’s now a “growing disquiet” in the Conservative Party about the proposed “emergency brake” on in-work benefits for new EU migrants. 

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

The Great British bunch of migrants (part 2)

• We’re not only an island, we’re part of a planet

Britain is a potpourri of nationalities which makes Britain Great. We may be an island, but we’re also part of a planet. 

The British have probably been the most prolific migrants in the history of the world. British people have gone to live in all parts of the planet, and still do. 

The Great British bunch of migrants (part 1)

• We’re all humans, isn't that what counts?
Last week British Prime Minister, David Cameron, referred to refugees camped in appalling conditions in Calais, France in derogatory terms as “a bunch of migrants”.

Labour front bencher, Chris Bryant, then reminded Mr Cameron in Parliament that his government Cabinet is “a bunch of migrants”.

But of course it goes much further than that. In all of Britain we’re a bunch of migrants – and refugees and migrants here have been responsible for achieving some of this country’s greatest successes.

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Is the UK Prime Minister two-faced?

• Remembering yesterday's victims, but forgetting today's?

Yesterday was Holocaust Memorial Day, and UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, announced in Parliament that a new Holocaust memorial would be built next to Parliament.

Mr Cameron told MPs that the memorial, costing £50 million, would "show the importance Britain places on preserving the memory of the Holocaust".

The Prime Minister added, "It is right that our whole country should stand together to remember the darkest hour of humanity."

The testimonies of Holocaust survivors will be part of the Memorial. “Their description of what they went through and the friends and family they lost, is so powerful and moving we must capture it for generations to come,” said Mr Cameron.

The Nazi regime systematically rounded-up and murdered six million Jewish people, and a further estimated six million others, among them disabled people, Gypsies and homosexuals. Over one million of the executed victims were children aged under 16. 

Last night the BBC broadcast, ‘The Children Saved from The Nazis’, how British hero, Sir Nicholas Winton, saved 669 unaccompanied child refugees from Nazi slaughter by arranging trains for them from Czechoslovakia to Britain. 

A further 10,000 unaccompanied child refugees were saved from death in the Holocaust by being transported from across Europe to the relative safety of Britain on a series of ‘KinderTransport’ trains just before the start of World War Two. 

Each child required sponsorship of £50, an enormous amount back in 1939, and a family to look after them. Huge efforts were made to save as many children as possible, and the British public raised half-a-million pounds towards the rescue effort. 

Many kind-hearted, mostly working-class British families took in the children, most of whom never saw their parents again, as they were massacred in the Holocaust. 

Back in 1938-1939, those taking in refugees had no idea that there would follow a world war and the Holocaust. In fact, the full gruesome details of the Holocaust were only known by the world after it had finished.

Today in 2016 the world is going through a new “dark hour”, which has created the worst refugee crisis on record. 

Millions of stateless, desperate people are trying to escape from war, terror, extermination, violence and religious oppression in several countries, with a small proportion of them reaching what they hope will be the safety of Europe. But many countries in Europe don't want them - including Britain.

United Nations figures show that, of the more than 1 million people who made the treacherous journey to Europe by sea last year, 25 percent were children. 

It’s estimated that there are 26,000 unaccompanied child refugees in Europe today. Some hundreds of them are camped in filthy conditions in Calais, and some of them have relatives in Britain who could care for them if they were allowed to come here. 

But today, there are no trains to bring these parentless children to the safety of Britain. 

The charity, Save the Children, is campaigning for Britain to take in 3,000 of the unaccompanied child refugees now homeless across Europe. The charity believes that number would represent a “fair share” taking into account Britain’s GDP, population, and employment rates. 

But the British Government is refusing to allow sanctuary for any refugees who have arrived in Europe, let alone the thousands of children who managed to escape from war and terror to our continent without the guiding hands of their parents. 

Those lost children are particularly vulnerable and prey to people-traffickers, prostitution and child-labour.

Yesterday, during the same session of Parliament that the Prime Minister announced the new memorial to Europe’s Holocaust, his attitude to today’s refugees in Europe was laid bare.

Following questions from Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, the Prime Minister made clear that Britain doesn’t want refugees coming here from Europe, and referred to the refugees now camped in squalid conditions in Calais as, “a bunch of migrants in Calais”

Last year he described them as “a swarm”.

Isn't it too easy for the Prime Minister to remember the victims of Europe’s dark past, in which he played no part in saving anybody, and forget today’s victims in Europe, which he could help to save? Isn't that called being ‘two-faced’?


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Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Danish police to seize refugees' belongings

The Danish Parliament has approved a controversial new law that allows police to force refugees to hand over their valuables.

On arrival in Denmark, items and cash worth over £1,000 can now be taken from refugees, including mobile phones, watches and computers.  Items of sentimental value such as wedding rings, decorations and medals will be exempt from confiscation.

The Danish government explained that the new law is to help to cover the cost of food and accommodation for the asylum seekers.  But commentators and some politicians have said that Denmark doesn't really need the money.  

A spokesman for the far-right Danish People's Party, supporters of the new law, said that it was intended as a "signal" to dissuade migrants from coming to Denmark, and not aimed at actually raising money.

Politicians also voted to delay asylum seekers from applying for their families to join them from the current one year to three years.   

"The aim is to make sure that (fewer) people come to Denmark, if it's hard to bring your family," the Danish Peoples Party claimed.

Amnesty International slammed the law, saying in a statement that it reflected a "dismal race to the bottom" by European countries in response to the migrant crisis.

"To prolong the suffering of vulnerable people who have been ripped apart from their families by conflict or persecution is plain wrong," said John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Director for Amnesty International.

The United Nations called the move “concerning and regrettable.” 

The Council of Europe's commissioner for human rights, Nils Muiznieks, said that delaying family reunions might be a breach of the European Convention on Human Rights and the United Nations' Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Pernille Skipper, MP for Enhedslisten, a left wing Danish party, said: “Morally it is a horrible way to treat people fleeing mass crimes, war, rapes. They are fleeing from war and how do we treat them? We take their jewellery.”

The leader of Denmark’s opposition Green Party, Uffe Elbaek said, "Refugees bring nothing more than the few personal belongings they can. Are these really the things we want to take from refugees in Denmark? I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.”

Some have compared the Danish new law to the confiscation of gold and other valuables from Jews by the Nazis during the Holocaust*.  

The plan has "a particularly bitter connotation in Europe, where the Nazis confiscated large amounts of gold and other valuables from Jews and others," The Washington Post commented.

It’s been reported today that similar laws already exist in Switzerland and Germany. Dozens of cases were reported in Switzerland of migrants' assets being confiscated to fund their living expenses, although in Germany it was unclear if, or how widely, the policy was enforced.

Denmark accepted about 20,000 asylum seekers in 2015 – 2% of the total to arrive in Europe last year.  Europe is currently confronting the greatest movement of refugees since World War II.

• Today is Holocaust Memorial Day*


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Sunday, 24 January 2016

Labour leader visits Calais and Dunkirk refugee camps

Yesterday, Britain’s Leader of the Opposition did what the Prime Minister hasn't done – he visited the squalid, dilapidated refugee camps in Calais and Dunkirk to see the situation for himself.

And Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, looked visibly shocked as he witnessed the scenes before him – desperate, traumatised men, women and children living in truly dreadful conditions, compounded by the experiences of their war-torn, terrorised home countries from where they had made perilous escapes.

Mr Corbyn commented that he knew the situation in the camps was bad – but he hadn’t realised that they were that bad.

"What I'm trying to achieve here is to understand the nature of the refugee crisis that's facing the whole of Europe," he said.

He described the conditions at the so-called ‘Jungle’ camp in Calais and the Grande-Synthe camp in Dunkirk as “a disgrace.”  

He added, “We have got people here who have been here for months, if not longer than that, with no proper education, no access to doctors, no access to dentists, limited access to food - in very cold, very wet conditions.  
"We as human beings have to reach out to fellow human beings."
Mr Corbyn called on the British government to join efforts to share refugees around the EU and accept more unaccompanied children immediately.

Compare and contrast the comments of Mr Corbyn at the scene of the refugee camps, with those of British Prime Minister, David Cameron, who (as far as I can ascertain) has never made a visit.

Instead of pledging to help, Mr Cameron, commenting a safe distance from the camps last summer, described the refugees as "a swarm”.

He pledged that Britain would not take-in any of the refugees who had crossed the Mediterranean to Europe.  And he warned that the UK will not become a "safe haven" for migrants in Calais.

Unlike Mr Corbyn, the Prime Minister seemed more concerned that British holidaymakers should not be disrupted by the refugees in Calais and Dunkirk.  

Mr Cameron said last year:
"Everything that can be done will be done to make sure our borders are secure and make sure that British holidaymakers are able to go on their holidays.”
Last October Mr Cameron was urged to go and visit the refugee camp in Calais by volunteer Lisa Wright, after she herself made a day-trip and, like Mr Corbyn today, was shocked by what she saw.

In an open letter on her Facebook page she told the Prime Minister:
“I know you've read the news reports, and I have too, but nothing could prepare me for what I saw. Whatever you've imagined from reading these reports, the reality is a thousand times worse.”
She added:
“Consider this letter a challenge, David. Go to Calais. Go to the jungle. Leave your suit, your fancy car and (if you can bear to part with it) your racism at home. Stay overnight. Camp there. Travel around the camp, talk to its inhabitants.”
But it seems very unlikely that Mr Cameron will follow in the footsteps of either Jeremy Corbyn or Lisa Wright and see for himself the suffering of refugees living in the make-shift camps.

A number of the refugees in both camps are reported to be unaccompanied children with relatives in Britain who could care for them.  But Britain doesn't want them to come here, even though we've signed up to international regulations that state we have an obligation to offer them asylum.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees' representative in France, Philippe Leclerc, said most of the migrants in Calais were fleeing violence in countries such as Syria, Eritrea, Somalia and Afghanistan.

This week an immigration tribunal overturned the British government’s refusal to allow four Syrian refugees – three of them minors – to come to Britain to join their relatives here.  

The Syrians were living in filthy, wretched conditions in the Calais refugee camp since  last October, and were physically and mentally traumatised by their experience.  The Tribunal judges stated the the refugees should be allowed to come to Britain immediately to join their relatives whilst their asylum applications are processed.

It's been reported, however, that the UK government is planning to appeal the decision. Clearly, they are worried that the tribunal's ruling could set a precedent, and allow other vulnerable unaccompanied children with relatives in the UK to leave the camps and come here.  

Maybe it’s easier for the Prime Minister to make tough-sounding comments and policies about refugees if he doesn't have to go and see for himself the situation in the camps. 

*Tim Farron, leader of the Liberal Democrats, visited the Calais refugee camp last August. 

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• Comments are welcome - but please read 'The rules of engagement' 

• Join and share the discussions about this topic on Facebook and Twitter:

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Thursday, 21 January 2016

Asylum and the rights of unaccompanied children

In case of any doubt, the rights of unaccompanied child refugees are clearly defined in the European Union regulations that cover how EU member states should treat asylum seekers.

And contrary to reports in the media (especially the BBC, which should know better), there is no law that requires refugees to claim asylum in the first safe country they reach.

There are, however, obligations under the Dublin 3 Regulation for EU member states to take responsibility for asylum seekers who arrive in their country first.

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Stinging criticism of the official pro-EU campaign

I hear it privately all the time. Pro-Europeans are increasingly concerned about the slow progress of the official pro-EU referendum campaign called, ‘Stronger in Europe’.

Now a leading pro-European campaigner has made those concerns public with a stinging criticism published yesterday by the Daily Telegraph.