The campaigning group Safe Passage held a rally in Parliament Square yesterday (20th January) in brilliant but cold sunshine, to call for the Government to reinstate Amendment 37 into the EU Withdrawal Bill, which will be voted in the Commons before the end of this week.
Between 300-400 people heard speakers from most parties demanding humanitarian treatment of child migrants across Europe. Under the Dublin III agreement, minors with family in the UK may claim asylum here, regardless of where they entered Europe. This provision is not included in the new Bill, though it had been agreed by the previous Parliament.
Lord Dubs expressed frustration that agreements already won were having to be reclaimed, while Vanessa Redgrave spoke of Judicial Review as a way of upholding democracy. Diane Abbott recalled the filthy conditions she had seen in refugee camps across Europe, and declared that it was a matter of common humanity and decency to uphold the rights of children, and their safety. There is not a 'refugee crisis' but there is a crisis in the fact that the UK and the EU are not honouring their legal obligations over the reunification of families. We are simply calling for Government to live up to its legal and humanitarian responsibilities.'
Eritrean student, Ridwan, here for three years, has not only achieved his leave to remain, but has passed GCSEs and embarked on A levels, eliciting a cheer from the audience. The All African Women's group pointed out that Britain owes Africa £3 trillion compensation for the slave trade, and all the children seeking asylum should be admitted as of right.
Steve Cowan, Leader of Hammersmith and Fulham Council, which has offered 400 foster places for unaccompanied minors, said: "We need to be a country of humanity. We cannot afford to lose that national characteristic." Baroness Jenny Jones spoke for the Green Party, while Stuart McDonald promised that all 49 SNP members would vote for the reinstatement of this provision, and for the strengthening of family laws. Ed Davey of the LibDems reminded all that this had always been a cross-party issue, with the simple slogan, 'Children before Politics', while Labour MP Yvette Cooper, Chair of the Home Affairs Committee, stressed the need to carry on with the campaign to do what had been agreed, to promote the welfare and education of all children, in a cross-bench endeavour, and build on the momentum achieved so far.
Organisers felt that whatever the result of the vote, the campaign is gaining momentum and we will keep on to achieve justice for migrant children and families.
See more pictures on ICN's Facebook page.
Barbara Kentish is a member of Westminster Justice and Peace Refugee Committee