The late MP was an outspoken advocate for refugees
Gerald Kaufman, Labour MP and ‘Father of the House’ died yesterday, aged 86.
In several of his final speeches to the House of Commons, Kaufman demanded that the government take on greater action on refugees.
One of the last speeches of the oldest-serving MP in the House of Commons, Labour’s Sir Gerald Kaufman, who has died at the age of 86. pic.twitter.com/qNGQTI9ZcA
— Channel 4 News (@Channel4News) February 27, 2017
Speaking in 2015, days after the death of Aylan Kurdi, Kaufman slammed Cameron’s commitment to welcome a derisory number of refugees to Britain.
“He is going to take in 20,000 refugees over five years. The Germans took in 10,000 on one day. What kind of comparison is that? I recognise the financial problems and the assimilation problems, but if we do not do it now, we will live to regret it for the rest of our lives. The message from my constituents, in a huge postbag and at every event I attended in my constituency over the weekend, is: ‘Let them in! We’ll welcome them. We’ll do what the Germans did. Let’s get on with it!'”
Kaufman’s own parents were refugees, who came to Britain from Poland before the First World War. In 1939, the family welcomed a young Jewish girl into their home after she arrived on the Kindertransport.
In recent years, as the world faces its greatest refugee crisis since the Second World War, Kaufman was an outspoken advocate for the rights of refugees.
Also in September 2015 he described the situation as ‘heart rending’ in a speech to the Commons.
“I do not want to dwell on my own personal experience, but my parents were refugees. When I think of people in Europe, I think of what happened to the Jews…I very much wish that the Government had that dimension of empathy that they do not appear to have.”
“We will look back on this Government’s mean response to this heart-rending humanitarian crisis and we will be ashamed. This is not the will of the people of this country. Every indication, both nationally and from our constituents, demonstrates that people want to be more generous—that they will feel fulfilled by being more generous.
“My constituents would be ready…to open their doors and receive people who are going through privations and suffering that are very difficult indeed for any of us in this comfortable House, in this comfortable country, even to imagine.”
Figures from across Labour have paid tribute to Kaufman, who served as a Manchester MP from 1970 until his death.Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.