MumsnetGuestPosts (MNHQ) Wed 27-Apr-16 10:57:34

Guest post: "Britain must not turn its back on child refugees in Europe"

As MPs face another vote on allowing unaccompanied child refugees into the UK, Sarah Brown says this is a matter of humanity, not politics

Sarah Brown

Charity president, author and campaigner

Posted on: Wed 27-Apr-16 10:57:34

(604 comments )

Lead photo

"This is not a question of sparking a new political controversy, it is a matter of simple humanity."

I can only imagine my desperation if I had to consider sending my boys away just to keep them safe.

But if I ever had to, I’d want a mother like Karen to be there for them. Karen is an amazing woman who told her story of fostering a refugee boy and brought huge attention to a campaign to get more refugee children settled safely in Britain.

This week, MPs had the chance to vote to let mothers like Karen keep doing what they want to do - opening their homes and their hearts to refugee children who are in Europe all alone without a mum or dad to look after them. I'm ashamed to say that they did not, and that the government decided to close the door to the thousands of children who need our help. The campaign was only asking for 3,000 children to come to Britain. To put that in context – that would be just five children per parliamentary constituency, and nowhere near the 10,000 mostly Jewish children that Britain saved through the Kindertransport before the Second World War.

I took a special interest in this vote because I have been working at Theirworld to help create school places for Syrian refugee children in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan, where many fleeing families arrive first. I have been focused on how to make sure that children never embark on a further dangerous journey to find a safe haven. When I saw that the British parliament was considering a vote to offer a welcome to 3,000 lone children who really need us to open our hearts and homes, I wanted to add my support. So last week I wrote to my local MP for the first time ever. I wanted his backing for refugee children, an issue that goes well beyond party politics. I know lots of Mumsnetters contacted their MPs too and have heard from many of you on Twitter. It was devastating to see the government vote down the proposal to give safety to lone refugee children in Europe.

While we can't ensure that every child is safe in his or her own country, we can act to prevent children dying on our doorstep here in Europe, and ensure a safe home and education and hope for a better future.


But this does not stop there. The House of Lords last night voted to back the bill thanks to the efforts of Lord Dubs and other campaigners. So it goes back to the House of Commons next Tuesday with a chance for MPs to reconsider their vote and help 3,000 lone children.

One of the ways you can help them think again is to sign this petition. If enough of us do it then perhaps a few more MPs will listen and reconsider their vote. In pushing for this change we won't be on our own – we have the backing of lots of energetic dedicated groups like Citizens UK, Save the Children, HelpRefugees and others. This weekend the former Archbishop of Canterbury gave his blessing, arguing that this is a chance to honour what our parents and grandparents did in the face of an earlier catastrophe.

This is not a question of sparking a new political controversy - that is not my way and not the Mumsnet way, I don't think - it is a matter of simple humanity. While we can't ensure that every child is safe in his or her own country, we can act to prevent children dying on our doorstep here in Europe, and ensure a safe home and education and hope for a better future.

As long as this terrible crisis runs on and horribly on - then we have obligations to the children who are here in our continent. Our MPs now have a second chance to help these vulnerable children and we should help them to take it.

Please join me, and sign here: Britain must not turn its back on child refugees in Europe.

By Sarah Brown

Twitter: @SarahBrownUK

Tuiles Wed 27-Apr-16 11:01:43

It's a terrible situation I agree.

But who is going to take these children?? There is already a shortage of foster carers in this country. And these kids will have complex needs and traumas. No matter how well meaning no one unverified/trained will be allowed to rock up and 'take' a refugee.

HildurOdegard Wed 27-Apr-16 12:01:06

I echo above, "who" is going to take them when 80000 kids already in the UK can't be fostered at present?

ItsJustAnotherUsername Wed 27-Apr-16 12:04:18

No point bringing them here when we don't have the resources in place to help them. Very naive to think otherwise.

PortiaCastis Wed 27-Apr-16 12:21:01

Echo everyone else. Where are we going to put all these children?

sportinguista Wed 27-Apr-16 12:22:14

As someone who taught Bosnian refugee teenagers I can say it is not an easy task to place these children/young people, they need very specialised care packages because of what they have been through. As others have said, unless there is the proper framework to help them we could be doing more harm than good.

Also what does happen to the children already without a foster placement? As long as their needs are also met and plans put in place for them as well I don't think I'd feel comfortable. I wouldn't be choosing one child above another.

Limer Wed 27-Apr-16 12:38:02

No. That picture is very misleading. Replace it with one of the fastest 14 year old in Sweden, because it's a fact that plenty of these "children" are young men aged over 16.

OhYouBadBadKitten Wed 27-Apr-16 13:05:43

I entirely agree with you for reasons that I've stated several times now.

These childdren exist in camps in Europe right now. People are moaning about how cold it is. Imagine being a kid, living outdoors, with nothing in this weather. No family, vulnerable to trafficking and illness. People honestly seem to think that it is better for them if we leave them there.

People keep trying to pretend they are all teenagers. They aren't. There are many young kids and they are arriving in greater proportion in southern Europe. And anyway, even teenagers need somewhere warm and dry to live.

Limer Wed 27-Apr-16 13:08:29

Sarah Brown, you wrote to your MP for the first time ever? Aren't you Gordon Brown's missus? Isn't your local MP already a close personal friend?

PortiaCastis Wed 27-Apr-16 13:10:46

How many children are you taking in Sarah ?

HildurOdegard Wed 27-Apr-16 13:17:45

Bizarre. If Sarah brown can't get an audience with an MP or two, makes me wonder how signatures from hoi polloi could bring change.

Loopy22 Wed 27-Apr-16 13:17:46

Carn't we support them with foreign aid. Build a nice home for them and a couple of schools. Why do we have bring um here?

SpringingIntoAction Wed 27-Apr-16 13:24:56

So, there is no European country in which they are currently living that can keep them safe and nourished?

So, the only place in the world that is able to rear these children in a decent way is the Uk - so they must all come here.

Your husband should have spent a lot more time when he was PM bringing civilisation to Europe and it is such a barbaric, uncaring, incompetent land mass that has zero empathy for human life.

That's what you're saying.

emilybohemia Wed 27-Apr-16 13:31:56

Once again the xenophobes rock up on a thread like this. The selfishness and ignorance is sickening. Of course the UK should take child refugees. It should also take more adult ones.

I hope the petition can have some impact.

Springing, noone has suggested the UK takes all child refugees. The 3000 proposed is a paltry amount.

Limer Wed 27-Apr-16 13:36:55

Xenophobes? Where?

The UK has no spare capacity for 3000 more troubled teenagers, regardless of their nationality.

PortiaCastis Wed 27-Apr-16 13:38:41

Emily how many are your Country taking?

sportinguista Wed 27-Apr-16 13:38:43

It's putting in place the right facilities to receive these children that people are concerned about. The right care is crucial to outcomes. This has also got to be EXTRA to our current commitments not at the cost of. So the needs of ALL children who need foster carers are met, those currently resident in this country and the proposed amount.

I'm sure Emily that you would want these and other children to be properly cared for in suitable settings?

ItsJustAnotherUsername Wed 27-Apr-16 13:40:25

Emily, do you know what xenophobia is? People are talking about practicalities, pesky little things that they are. Where do you propose these children go given that care homes are closing, there are no available fosterers for the 80,000 UK children currently in need and a severe lack of socialcare and healthcare experts?
You come on these threads screaming xenophobia but offer no real solutions.

HildurOdegard Wed 27-Apr-16 13:43:03

Emily - I don't get it. Are you saying the reason there are 80000 children in the UK today without foster placements due to xenophobia? The British are xenophobic towards British children? confused

sportinguista Wed 27-Apr-16 13:47:21

I'm assuming it's xenophobic to point out that we have a shortage of foster carers and that the relevant care will be produced somehow for these children.

The British children are irrelevant, not sure what happens to them. I guess we'll find out in ten or 20 years time...

emilybohemia Wed 27-Apr-16 13:54:35

I agree we should help them Sarah, but I also think it is important to keep fighting for all refugee rights. The kindertransport is often spoken of at the moment but we mustn't forget that while children then were helped, their parents couldn't come and many died.

British children should be brought up to respect human rights and generosity. I'm not sure why you think other child refugees would affect them so badly. Keeping values alive like helping thevulnerable and dispossessed ratherthan throwing them away and pretending they don't matter is a crucial part of the future of our children, sporting.

Portia, I am British. Perhaps you would like to educate youself on the paltry amount of refugees we are taking.

ItsJustAnotherUsername Wed 27-Apr-16 14:00:17

Oh enough with the emotional rhetoric. Practical solutions emily, name some?

howtorebuild Wed 27-Apr-16 14:02:58

I am all for helping children of the age in your picture. Many Foster carers confirm the reality is the "children" are late teen nobody can verify their age males with PTSD. I am concerned for the welfare of females being fostered and schooled alongside these males from misogynist cultures with no background, history or paperwork.

The reality is these children look like this.

www.theguardian.com/world/2016/apr/26/child-refugee-fight-caught-publics-imagination-lord-dubs

www.theguardian.com/world/2016/apr/26/lords-tries-again-to-overturn-tory-refusal-to-help-child-refugees-in-europe

sportinguista Wed 27-Apr-16 14:03:45

But if vunerable British children lose out on foster care that they may need just as desparately, due to abuse etc. they may not be in a position to reflect on the values of human rights and generosity. Indeed they may have very bad outcomes. What I'm suggesting is that NOBODY loses out. Therefore we need to know that the additional carers and funding is in place for this, which people are suggesting may be more difficult than at first glance.

I am suggesting respect for the human rights of ALL vunerable citizens, which includes refugees.

If you would like to suggest how the extra foster carers required for both sets of children could be recruited that would be a start, then we could actually campaign and say it can be done. You would also be helping 2 groups of vunerable children and that would be good wouldn't it?

emilybohemia Wed 27-Apr-16 14:06:41

Why do I have to namesome itsjust? Can you not think of any? Why not address where the governement allocates its resources and campaign change instead of just saying its not possible?

Of course it's 'emotional', these kids can be trafficked and all sorts, how does that not provoke an emotional response unless you're a robot?

Late teens is a child however you try to dress it up, howto.

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