On refugees, Cameron must prioritise a humanitarian response

Britain should not forget its own history of exploitation and destabilising intervention



Recently the popular BBC religious affairs programme ‘Songs of Praise’ broadcast from the migrant camp in Calais. The outpouring of bile this provoked showed h how ugly the current debate on migration has become.

We have had the prime minster describing desperate refugees as a ‘swarm’ and foreign secretary Phillip Hammond claiming Europe would not be able to protect its “standard of living and social infrastructure” if it had to absorb millions of migrants from Africa.

It did not seem to occur to him that Europe owes its current standard of living and social infrastructure, not only to the exploitation past and present of Africa’s minerals and raw materials but also to the efforts of millions of hardworking European citizens of African descent.

Hammond’s comments have drawn criticism from anti-racist campaigners and Amnesty International who point out that Calais is a symptom of a global refugee crisis which is seeing Syrian, Eritrean, Sudanese and Iraqis escaping a myriad of crises to neighbouring countries.

If the image of people rounded up in a stadium in Greece is shocking, it’s the product of Britain refusing to co-operate with the EU on how to deal with this global issue in a humanitarian way.

I commend prominent members of the Jewish community for calling on David Cameron to prioritise a humanitarian response. To remember that during the Holocaust, the national papers shamefully denigrated Jewish people fleeing Hitler as they landed here, but also to remember that we have a proud tradition of being a refuge for those in need.

The experience of the Jewish community in the twentieth century should remind us where this sort of racism can lead.

For centuries lies have been spread about immigrants taking the jobs of established British communities, or being the cause of economic recession and downturn.

From Jewish people in the nineteenth century, Irish people in the early twentieth century, Africans, Bangladeshi, Indian and Pakistani communities in the post-war era through to Polish, Romanian, Bulgarian and Eastern European migrants in the last decade, immigrants have always been the convenient scapegoat. Calais refugees are only the most recent target.

The only thing driving down living standards is the Tory government’s austerity agenda – £12 billion worth of cuts to the welfare state and the £3 billion cuts to public services announced in the budget. This is slowing down growth to the point of stagnation and is also making living standards worse.

The fact is that our foreign policy, which involved military intervention into parts of Africa, has resulted in destabilisation. We need to have a compassionate response towards people risking horrific deaths in the Mediterranean who are clearly desperate to escape poverty, war and social unrest. These situations are hard for us to imagine in Britain.

Faced with situations like this, those at the top sometimes need ordinary people to be their conscience. Critical Mass are planning a mass bike ride to Calais and the sign up is nearing one thousand people. Over 60,000 people are petitioning Cameron to provide medical support to migrants in Calais, who have been injured trying to get to Britain, and whose numbers include pregnant women and children.

The toxic political climate on immigration is bad for our higher education sector, bad for business and bad for a city like London which should glory in being an open city. As for the media commentators, they should be aware that their irresponsible and hate-filled coverage could lead to human tragedy on a massive scale.

Diane Abbott is the Labour MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington. She is currently running in the selection to be Labour’s London mayoral candidate.

Want to read more posts like this? Then *sign-up to Look Left* and make sure you have the facts to rebut right-wing spin

35 Responses to “On refugees, Cameron must prioritise a humanitarian response”

  1. Seymour

    Abbot has always been a loon, now she wants more ‘vibrancy’ forced on UK society. She’ll be OK, payed by the tax payer as she is, the rest of society she couldn’t give a fig about.

    Accepting illegals is a crazy idea, who apart from the deluded Europeans and USAians does it? No one.

    Our masters want cheap labour close by to weed their gardens and mind their spawn, whilst the hoi polloi can be left to rot.

    Abbot isn’t just left wing she is anti-UK and a racist.

  2. steroflex

    Diane, where do your kids go to school?
    How many kids in the class?

  3. JoeDM

    We are full up.

    Save them, feed them and then send them back home.

  4. Lucy Amelia Mc Farland

    Couldn’t agree more sick of hearing about these manipulative scroungers!

  5. Lucy Amelia Mc Farland

    Are we meant to feel sorry for these people the biggest majority are muslims, these people want to come to Europe yet they hate our culture hate our customs, yet they want our benefits. They don’t even integrate but alienate them-selves to their own. Really are we meant to seriously meant to accept them with open arms!!

  6. jsb

    What horrible comments. I do not share them and am really disgusted with lack of humanity. Our country is built on the work of immigrants. What is the matter with these commentators?

  7. jsb

    Send them back to what, and where?

  8. jsb

    What benefits? Our sad country pays the smallest benefits, and that includes all pensions paid to what, I think, you would call ‘our people ‘

  9. jsb

    What do you mean by ‘full up’ ? Our indigenous population does not produce enough people to look after people like you when you get old.

  10. jsb

    Well said.

  11. Lucy Amelia Mc Farland

    You are not asked to share our opinions or expected to you are entitled to yours the same as I am entitled to mine. For your information this country was built on my Father and great Grandparents etc who not only worked and built this country but fought for it, my Grandfather received a medal for his bravery for fighting for our country so please don’t try to patronise me and tell me it was built through immigrants!!! what a insult!!

  12. jsb

    I was not patronising any one. We all have family who built this country. One grandfather from Devon was the first person to drive a tank in1914. On the other side of the family who sought refuge in the UK in 1903 from the Russian pogroms against the Jews at that time, which killed my great grandfather in his synagogue, produced children,who like my father, founded the NHS and got an OBE for his work. He was also at the liberation of Belsen. Try doingt hat if you are Jewish. Don’t let’s argue because it is so pointless. All of make a contribution in our own way..

  13. Nick

    The facts are that these are mainly refugees and have fled from all types of human rights abuses and they need political asylum in a safe country just as you yourself would need if the ball was on the other foot

    The main reasons for them seeking asylum is because their own government’s behave in a manner that causes many to flee for their life

    The vast majority will have lost family members before fleeing and only the hardened will have fled with the vast majority whole complete families having already been killed by their government’s actions

    Over the next few years many countries will become wasteland because of the bloodshed and turmoil that has been going on with the constant attacks on their people for many years

    The whole of the EU and other so-called stable countries need to put together workable plans so that some of lives can be saved and that proper diplomatic dialogue takes place in the countries where the turmoil has been going on for many years so that these countries can at some point in the
    future can become stable again

    It can be done i feel but only by the right sort of diplomatic approach but will take a long time

  14. Lucy Amelia Mc Farland

    I respect the Jews and I have supported the Jews in Aliyah financially when I can, I hold the Jewish people with the greatest respect Gods chosen people

    God bless you

  15. Sid

    Put them on the firs boat back.

  16. JoeDM

    Where they came from. They are NOT our problem.

  17. Seymour

    Diplomacy isn’t what is needed, unless it involves a gunboat or two.

    Did the problem exist when Europeans managed Africa directly? No it didn’t. Perhaps we need to directly manage their countries again. strating with hanging their corrupt politicians.

  18. Dave Stewart

    are you fucking serious? You are advocating a return to imperial rule of Africa. When did LFF because the Daily Mail comments section.

  19. madasafish

    She sent her son to a private school. So she’s all right. Only the plebs need to worry.. And in London they vote Labour anyway. So she does not care.

  20. Roy

    She wants to be Mayor of Londonistan.

  21. Roy

    But they don’t need an Id card to get the benefits as they do elsewhere.

  22. Selohesra

    If we didnt have net migration of >300K pa already we might be able to show a bit more generosity/compassion to a few thousand in Calais – but we dont so we cant

  23. jj

    I think people are just fed up with people like Diane believing that a country the size of the UK can support an extra 300,000 (net) extra people from other parts of the world per year. And the fact that trade is being disrupted by those illegally getting into lorries and the Eurotunnel. What do you expect? Us to be all hokey dokey with the current situation.

  24. jj

    Thing is, in the past we had 50,000 maybe in a decade, now its double that in less than half a year. That’s not just unsustainable, but completely irresponsible in the long term.

  25. jj

    You can’t deny that almost every single country in Africa is run by dictator that funnels all the money from mineral wealth and government aid to buying weapons etc. That’s why Africa is poor, that’s why people are leaving in droves, that’s why there is so much crime and terrorism in places like Nigeria.

  26. Steve Larson

    There is a class divide on this topic.

    The well healed left and middle class have little problem with this, same as corporate interests.

    The plebs won’t be listened to and they deal with the fallout.

  27. Dave Stewart

    Africa is poor for a whole number of reasons and yes corruption is one of them but ask yourself who enables that corruption for the most part? It is large mostly European and US multinationals. They take natural resources and then through clever accounting (or outright fraud) avoid and/or evade the tax they owe to those African countries. It is estimated that Africa loses more than 10 times what it receives in aid money though tax evasion and avoidance each year.

    Finally do you not think that the wholesale theft of African resources in the colonial past has nothing to do with Africa’s wealth now?

    And even if your thesis is correct (which I dispute) that still does not justify enslaving an entire continent. Please catch up with the 21st century.

  28. jj

    Ive fought up with the 21st century, thank you very much.
    Allow me to elaborate.
    Many companies, especially Chinese now, are buying up huge parts of African land, do you know why? Because it is cheap, resourceful rich, and the corrupt regimes (because that’s what they are, they are barely ‘governments’ in most cases) do dirty handshakes in the shadows, pretty obvious stuff really. China and most of Asia was colonised by all sorts of people, the Japanese, the Europeans, east Timor was basically a colony of Indonesia until 2002, Asia was pretty plundered by many, yet through better governance, Asia has picked itself up, taxed companies (because the government is strong willed to do this instead of spending any tax money collected on guns!). African leaders, such as Mugabe continue to divert the attention away from his own failings and his populations misery, away from the fact that he doesn’t give a care about his people, but only seeks to line the pockets of his comrades, and too often uses colonialism as a justifiable reason why he is basically dissipating the agricultural industry that Zimbabwe depends on.

  29. Cole

    Too selfish to care. Typical right winger. Just what your forbears said about the Jews the 1930s.

  30. Cole

    Shame we can’t put you on a boat and sink it.

  31. Cole

    Ah, a self appointed spokesman for the working classes…

  32. Cole

    Oh yes, they’ve come all the way from Syria and Eritrea just to claim benefits. Silly woman.

  33. Steve Larson

    I’m working class but haven’t the working class had nothing but self appointed spokespeople talking for 40 years now.

    They even coined a phrase “working class politics”.

    One stream of politics claiming to speak for an entire demographic and presenting to them how they should think on every issue and admonishing them when they disagree.

    I’m left wing economically but I find the paternalism and aloof nature of so many on the left today to be very off putting.

  34. Jonny D

    Another nail in Labours coffin— Abbott and Cooper make Labour ( Don’t forget Corbyn),make Labour totally Unelectable.We do not have the room to take in any more immigrants.We already have enough, not counting the million or so illegals.

  35. Conorcunt

    Abbott is anotherr example of the hypocritcal Socialist glitterati.

    She against private schools but sent her own son to one! Is she afraid of something?

Leave a Reply