As the horrors perpetrated in Aleppo intensify even further, as winter deepens across millions of refugees, tens of thousands of them in inadequate camps in northern Greece and elsewhere in Europe, it is a relief to listen to a voice of committed compassion.
Alf Dubs was born in Czechoslovakia in 1932. His departure as a small boy on the Kindertransport had a profound effect on him. To this day, he said, he still finds partings searingly painful. That’s no doubt an essential part of why he feels so strongly about the plight of refugees, especially unaccompanied children.
He entered politics to turn values into actions, to make a difference. ‘The vast majority of politicians are public servants with a genuine desire to do good’, he reminded us. He recalled the impact Joe Cox had on him, listening to her speaking in The Commons.
Concern for refugees has been central to his career, both in and outside of Parliament. Between 1988 and 1995 he was director of the Refugee Council. This work and his own life story made him determined to persuade the government to allow more children into this country in the shocking current crisis. At the second attempt ‘The Dubs Amendment’ was passed.
‘What did it’, Lord Dubs said, ‘Was public opinion. This country has a long history of welcoming refugees’. But at the same time he was well aware of the opposite trend, especially after Brexit, toward increased racism and xenophobia. ‘I spent hour after hour knocking on doors, campaigning for Remain,’ he told us.
He was impressed by the quotations from the Torah on either side of the ark in the New North London Synagogue: ‘Love your neighbour’ and ‘Love the stranger’.
Lord Dubs was given a prolonged standing ovation, a tribute to his determination to fight for values which we all share.
Masorti Judaism was key in raising £200,000 across the community to bring children to this country who had legal rights under Dublin 3 to enter the UK.
I have recently launched a further appeal, through the New North London Synagogue and beyond, to support key NGOs in their essential work of supporting refugee children in Europe and once they have reached this country. Please see click here. Please be generous.