Home Secretary’s home targeted in refugee rehousing protest
By Sam Kinch
Protestors gathered outside the constituency home of Hastings & Rye MP Amber Rudd on Sunday 12th February, to protest her recent decision to foreshorten the Government’s commitment to rehousing refugee children in the UK to just 350, despite making unofficial commitments at the time to rehousing 3,000 from April 2016 onwards.
Around 25 protestors had gathered in Hastings Old Town near the rented cottage of Amber Rudd at around 11am on Sunday morning with banners making their feelings clear to the Home Secretary. Despite Ms Rudd not being home, with some reports that she had left town late the previous night with a security detail, the protestors gathered for photographs and made a number of speeches on the topic of refugees and the country’s responsibility to the outside world. A letter was also circulated imploring the incumbent MP to reassess her decision as soon as possible; the letter was signed by all present and eventually slid under the front door of her old town residence. The meeting was concluded with a minute’s silence to remember those refugees who have lost their lives fleeing war and persecution in their home countries.
The promise to rehouse 3,000 refugees came about last April following the heightening situation, in Syria particularly, which increased the flow of refugees risking their lives to cross the globe in search of a safe haven. At the time the Home Secretary drafted her new Immigration Act 2016, which passed through the House of Commons despite widespread protest from campaigners who complained that the act did not do enough to honour the UK’s commitments under international law to offer safe haven to refugees.
It was only once the bill passed to the House of Lords that an amendment was tabled by the Labour Peer, Alf Dubs, which bound the government to “make arrangements to relocate to the United Kingdom and support a specified number of unaccompanied refugee children from other countries in Europe.” It was at this time that the figure of 3,000 was widely publicised, with David Cameron going on record with a promise to rehouse 3,000 children, although this was specified as children from outside the EU and therefore didn’t apply to those already in The Jungle camp in Calais. Since then the Home Secretary and others opposed to the bill have suggested that the bill might “incentivise” children to make the journey from Syria to the UK, although presently it’s unclear whether anyone actually believes this or if it is simply even more Governmental abdication of humanitarian responsibilities.
Rudd insists that the government has fulfilled its commitments to the amendment, which didn’t specify an exact
figure, but stated “The number of children to be resettled under subsection (1) shall be determined by the Government in consultation with local authorities.” Rudd’s contention being that after consultation, the number of 350 is all that local authorities are able to support safely.
Speaking in the House of Commons Rudd said “Yesterday the Government announced that, in accordance with section 67 of the Immigration Act 2016, we would transfer the specified number of 350 children who reasonably meet the intention and spirit behind the provision. That number includes more than 200 children who have already been transferred from France under section 67. I must make it absolutely clear that the scheme is not closed. As required by the legislation, we consulted local authorities on their capacity to care for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children before arriving at the number. We are grateful for the way in which local authorities have stepped up to provide places for those arriving, and we will continue to work closely to address capacity needs”.
Lord Dubs, himself a refugee from Prague who came to the UK after fleeing the Nazis, is expected to fight the decision and responded “They [the Government] have recently said they would accept the letter and spirit of the amendment but they are manifestly not doing that. I think they’re claiming, as an excuse, that local authorities don’t want to step up to the mark, and I think it is quite clear from the evidence that we have that local authorities would respond if asked.”
Local campaigners Hastings Supports Refugees have agreed to keep up the pressure on the MP for Hastings & Rye, with plans to invite groups from across the country to attend events and demos in Hastings to make public opinion felt in the Home Secretary’s constituency.
For more info and updates on the campaign visit www.facebook.com/hastingssupportsrefugees