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“One action a week: how you can fight this shameful U-turn on child refugees”

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Molly Watson

Stylist contributor Molly Watson volunteers at a youth group for unaccompanied minors and visits asylum seekers in detention. Here, she explains why the time has come to actively resist the government’s scrapping of the Dubs scheme – a decision that has thrown the future of thousands of child refugees seeking asylum in Britain into peril

Driven to despair by the government’s U-turn last week on the Dubs agreement, which had pledged to save 3,000 lone refugee children,  I had a moment. I realized I could no longer just sign e-petitions and fling spare change at well-intentioned charities. I needed to do more. I decided each week to do a physical act of resistance. To hold my line.

For this is Gotham City and we are under enemy threat. Not in fact from an unstoppable tide of NHS-grabbing migrants, but from fear. Both the US and UK governments are peddling noxious, scaremongering policies. They spout anti-immigration sentiments under the highly suspicious guise of putting The Country First. 

Make no mistake, this is an assault on the values of anyone who believes in humanity. Unless we wake up and hold the line on beleaguered “liberal elitist” ethics, we will find ourselves so scared we won’t be able to look up from our iPads.

How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.

Anne Frank: "How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world"

Just 75 years ago, Anne Frank was offered temporary sanctuary by friends - who risked their lives to do so in an enemy occupied land. Kinder Transport saved 10,000 Jewish children from the gas chambers between 1938-1940. Today it’s apparently peacetime in relatively prosperous Britain, and the government halts the Dubs agreement, after just 350 children are saved.

The government’s post-truth about this Dubs U-turn needs to be exposed. They claim they do not wish to incentivise dangerous human smuggling, and they say councils cannot cope with the influx of illegal refugees already here. But Dubs should have been a carefully planned, fully consultative transfer, managed in partnership with willing councils. It was intended to save children who have already done that dangerous journey, displaced by war and terror. With no Dubs these children are more vulnerable. Incentivised purely by finding safety, they will now need to take more risks to get here. We simply cannot shut our border now.

Protest

Protesters in support of the Calais refugees rally in Westminster, October 2016

Just imagine for one moment, that wars and religious suppression cause thousands of young puppies to travel to safety in the UK. Halted by a wall and a channel, no-one will let them in. They huddle in makeshift camps, where females wear nappies to avoid being raped when using the loo at night. Puppies are tear-gassed by police or kept for days in shipping containers, without adequate heating, food, water, sanitation or information about what will happen to them next.

We tell ourselves it’s awful, but we’re probably better off not encouraging them and their desperation

With enormous reluctance, amid newspaper reports inciting us to check whether the dogs have enough spots to be saved, the UK government sends out a few officials. Months later, the Government shamefully admits only 350 pups will ever make it to the UK. Thousands are already missing. Cue Cruella de Ville’s demoniacal laugh….

And yet, let’s face it, if there really was a puppy immigration crisis, Brits would row their own boats over the channel to demand humane treatment for beloved pooches. But when it’s about children, human children, who have suffered unimaginable horrors, we tell ourselves it’s awful but we’re probably better off not encouraging them and their desperation.

Paddington Bear toys with tags bearing the name of London councils that have agreed to take child refugees

Paddington Bear toys with tags bearing the name of London councils that have agreed to take child refugees

So please, stop listening to the fear. Find energy in taking real action.

Start by joining Juliet Stevenson in signing Citizen UK’s petition (40,000 signatories and counting) and set up a direct debit to brilliant initiatives by inspiring women like Josie Naughton and Lliana Bird’s Help Refugees and projects they support such as Phone Credit for Displaced People. Then go and act. Speak to your MP about Dubs. Mine did not flinch that much when my young son smeared an egg sandwich slowly over his table, and he did write on my behalf to the Minister for Immigration. Call your Council to hear their story, as many did object to the closure of Dubs. Speak to a social worker about fostering a refugee child.

One actual action a week. Let’s hold this line, and choose love not fear.

In the unforgettable words of Anne Frank: How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.

Photos: Rex Features

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