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Wednesday, 16 September 2015

We have a moral and legal obligation to help refugees: Jane Carolan full #TUC15 speech

“We have a moral and legal obligation to help refugees”, UNISON NEC member Jane Carolan told delegates today in a moving speech backing a statement committing the General Council to campaign for Government policy to:
- recognise that the UK must play a full role in supporting refugees and fulfil its moral and legal obligations to significantly upscale its resettlement programme
- participate fully in a continent-wide response to the refugee crisis
- make welcome tens of thousands of refugees whether from camps in the Middle East or already in Europe
- .fully fund refugee resettlement, avoiding the exploitation of refugees and avoiding extra pressure on poorer inner-city communities, whilst ensuring that the international development budget is only used in line with OECD guidelines on official development assistance.

"Jane’s full speech is below.

This motion refers to events that everyone in this hall must be aware of, from the images that have been beamed into our homes on a nightly basis. I would hope that no one in this hall watches them with anything other than compassion and pity.

These events have been detailed by speakers on this statement.

But listen carefully and read carefully the commentary on these tragic events.

The language that accompanies these images dehumanises and demonises.

Migrants always migrants are processed.

Not their passports

Not their papers

Migrants are processed.

Along the routes travelled Migrants are rounded up on a regular basis and sent to camps.

Witness Police stopping trains in Hungary and ordering off those aboard to alight for detention.

Meanwhile their government spends a hundred million euros to build a barbed wire fence and Denmark takes adverts in the press saying turn up here and we’ll throw you back.

These attitudes seem eerily reminiscent of a previous era in European history and indeed some pronouncements about a so called new fifth column in Europe can only be described as racist.

Our Prime Minister, to misquote a previous holder of that office, is tough on migrants and tougher on the causes of migrants.

In total the UK has currently a total of 28,000 asylum seekers of whom 14,000 are behind bars in detention camps. From the start of the Syrian conflict only 216 refugees have been admitted, 34, yes 34 last year.

Asylum seekers and subject to detention, poverty and discrimination.

Meanwhile Cameron apparently believes that further secret bombing attacks on Syria will resolve the problems their ignoring the real evidence and learning nothing from interventions in Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan, that have solved nothing and indeed themselves have contributed to the mass of humanity trying to escape from war zones.

The opposite reaction to this is seen in the spontaneous actions taken by thousands of ordinary citizens. British holidaymakers among others greeting refugees in Lesbos and Kos with food and water.

Communities coming together to collect goods from food to tents and blankets to soap and toothbrushes and clothing and arranging to transport across Europe.
Families and individuals prepared to throw open their own doors, to welcome those needing shelter.
Churches charities and community groups speaking out and asking why we sit back and let this happen.

These people recognise what this morally bankrupt government can’t.

That we have a moral and legal obligation to help.

We have recognised the UN refugee charter since 1951.

A refugee by the 1951 convention is defined as a person fleeing an armed conflict or persecution and who is in need of protection as it is too dangerous for them to return home. Recognition as a refugee should mean housing benefits and integration into society.

Syria is in the grip of a civil war where there are many displaced people.

Likewise Libya

These are the primary places where refugees originate. Those who are currently on the road in many cases trying to walk into Europe.

The total number of those currently on the move represent less than 1% of the population of the EU.

Across the EU these numbers can be integrated.

And the UK can take its share of this humanitarian tragedy.

20,000 over the next five years is the least that we should be able to do.

All the governments throughout the UK need to recognise however that for refugees to be successfully integrated into our communities they need to be supported by our public services and that cannot be done where those public services are stretched to the limit.

Our local authorities already have the experience to do this – we have done so already.

Providing educational opportunities in our schools, when we have the necessary education stuff – not just teachers, but all the support staff – and the places in schools and the resources to do so.

Providing family support through social services departments, through childcare experts who have the experience of dealing with traumatised children and families, where they are given the time to make provision.

Providing additional housing resources to deal with additional housing need.

And we need to provide access to health services, particularly through appropriate community health services.

Previous experience tells us that this investment results in committed young families making a positive contribution to our communities.

Widening our cultural understanding.

And yes, these families becoming responsible citizens and paying that investment back through becoming tax payers.

This is not special pleading; this is being morally responsible as we believe that we should be.

Please support this statement and support efforts in your local community to makes its content a reality.