Last night, South Gloucestershire councillors condemned the Home Secretary’s decision to accept only 350 unaccompanied refugee children from the Syrian crisis.
Cllr Claire Young (Liberal Democrat, Westerleigh) proposed a motion reaffirming the Council’s long-standing commitment to supporting refugees, and criticising the US decision to ban entry to all nationals from 7 Muslim majority countries.
Although the Conservatives used their majority to weaken the motion, and talk about all countries – including dictatorships the UK should never admire – the motion was agreed to. Words condemning the Government first proposed by Liberal Democrat Maggie Tyrrell were then added, on a named vote.
Claire Young said: “The importance of this motion is show that we stand with our residents, whatever their nationality, ethnicity, or religion. It is to show that we are a welcoming, inclusive council, prepared to stand up for the values of an open, tolerant society. The values that people have long associated with both the UK and the US, but which in the past year have seemed to be under siege. South Gloucestershire residents with dual nationality could be directly affected by this, and it’s important that we stand up for them.”
An early vote on a Liberal Democrat proposal to condemn the Government’s weak action on child refugees was defeated by Conservative votes, but the issue came up again later in the debate.
Liberal Democrat leader Cllr Ruth Davis added: “Because of the government action on this, there are over 2,650 children in France, in appalling circumstances. We could have brought them over to proper foster families, where they would have been safe. That is what we’re talking about, 2,650 children who now have no hope again. I want to be able to sleep at night!”
The ‘Dubs amendment’ is Section 67 of the Immigration Act 2016, which instructed the Government to set a number of unaccompanied child refugees to be brought to safety in Britain. Last week, the Government set that at only 350 – 200 of whom were already in Britain.
Councillors first took a hand vote on whether or not to condemn the Home Secretary’s decision, and then took a “named vote”, with every Councillor being asked in turn. With every Liberal Democrat and Labour Councillor supporting, four Tories joined them – and the vote passed, 32-31.
Afterwards, Claire Young said: “I am delighted that we have decided to condemn this Home Secretary’s decision. The whole point of the Dubs amendment was to make a difference – not to be a gesture. Families in South Gloucestershire are ready to welcome child refugees, and we are leaving them in squalor, in camps. Britain can do better than that.