Instead of greeting refugees and asylum seekers with suspicion and bureaucracy and a Border Force programmed to turn them away we should be greeting them with compassion and blankets, with food and with welcome.Deidre Brock MP
I was at the Edinburgh rally for refugees at the weekend and we heard some harrowing stories. I find myself feeling stronger than ever that we must do more, this wealthy nation of ours must do more to help those who have ended up with nothing and are fleeing their homelands in fear for their lives.
Here's the speech I gave on Saturday -
"You know, when someone packs what they can carry – including their children – and walk into a neighbouring country with the tattered remnants of their lives I think we've got a moral responsibility to reach out and help. We have the responsibility to reach out and help because they are fellow human beings.
When people flee from their homes and can manage to get here, we have a duty to reach out and help. A duty to make sure that their basic human needs are catered for, that they have somewhere safe to stay, that they have food and clothing, that children get an education, that health care is available. They have a right to expect our protection and our assistance and the right to expect that we'll welcome them.
The guarantees are in the UN Convention on Refugees' first signed on our behalf in 1951, but it shouldn't need a piece of paper to tell us what's right. These are merely acts of shared humanity, of saying to our neighbours who are in need that they are our neighbours wherever they come from and that they are our friends because they are in need and that they are welcome here for as long as they need.
Instead of greeting refugees and asylum seekers with suspicion and bureaucracy and a Border Force programmed to turn them away we should be greeting them with compassion and blankets, with food and with welcome. We know that there will always be some people who try to take advantage of any situation, that there will be people who try to profit from any situation but their greed and their ill intent should not blunt our compassion or our need to help.
When unaccompanied children are washing up on the shores of Greek islands – dead or half alive – it shouldn't need to be explained to anyone that there is something seriously wrong and that our help and the help of our governments is needed. When Greece strains to help those who reach its shores we should be sending help to Greece. Instead of an army of officials waiting to turn people away we should have an army of helpers going forth to find and assist those in need. Instead of the small-minded, xenophobic fortress Britain that seems to have been strengthened in recent months we need world citizenship and humanity.
We should be sending people out to help, out to see who needs to come here for the succour and support that we can offer. And we should be looking for far, far more people to come – Scotland is not full up and never will be so long as we have anything to offer. We should send a message from Edinburgh today, a message that should be heard around the world.
In London Theresa May should hear that we want to welcome more people in need, she should hear us say "open the border to those who we can help, let them come here, let them find peace and rest in a nation that wants them." There is still time, Mrs May, to change your stance, leave behind the petty and soiled political advantage that you think you get from being harsh on refugees, lift up your dignity and your humanity and find the leadership to tell your people that we'll welcome refugees.
The message should be heard by everyone around the world fearing for their lives that there is a safe haven if we can get you here. This mongrel nation can roar with a lion's heart and that roar should say that refugees are welcome here. If you have nothing but fear, come share it with us; if you are carrying the shards of your life in your hands come let us help you build it again; if all you have left is your existence as a human being that's all we'll ever need from you and we'll offer you our humanity in turn.
Scotland should expect nothing less from her people and her politicians than a full-throated endorsement of the right of humanity to be respected. This is our nation and it's the nation of every single person who needs our help. Say it loud and say it clear, refugees are welcome here."