The following words were spoken by a man known as Frank Judd in the days when he was a Labour MP, and now Lord Judd in the House of Lords where he has been a member since 1991. His speech was made on Thursday in the House of Lords as part of a debate on “Brexit: Foreign and Security Policy Co-operation” and this is most of the last two paragraphs of a longer speech. These words make total sense on their own without the need for any commentary.
We have been terribly preoccupied in this House about how many child refugees we can have, how fast this is happening and how secure they will be, but look at the global reality. I have just double-checked with our excellent Library this morning, so I am going to get my statistics right. There are currently 65.3 million refugees and displaced people in the world, of whom 21.3 million are refugees; displaced people are very often in exactly the same predicament as refugees, but they do not have the status because they have not crossed a border. Lebanon has 1.1 million refugees; Turkey has 2.5 million; Jordan has nearly 0.7 million. We should look not only at the numbers but at the proportion of the total populations of those countries that the refugee population represents. How will we have stability in those regions unless we work together in finding strategic solutions to the issues that face us?
As we fuss about the hundreds or thousands who may come to Britain, I am appalled to see the headlines that are going out to the world about whether or not children should be tested and whether there is any breaching of the regulations about age. For nine years, I was president of the YMCA in England, which does terrific work with the young. One thing we discovered was that 17 to 21 year-olds are every bit as vulnerable as children in many respects. What on earth is this neurosis that has overtaken us? Why is the message that is going out from Britain not one that says, “We are determined to be a warm, welcoming, compassionate nation”? That is not the message that is going out at the moment. How do we begin to meet those challenges unless that message goes out?