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Refugee turned baroness calls on government to help child refugees after Dubs Amendment scrapped

'Britain is not Farage, it’s people who do amazing things'

Will Worley
Saturday 11 February 2017 18:24 GMT
Arminka Helic called for the government to live up to its humanitarian traditions
Arminka Helic called for the government to live up to its humanitarian traditions (BBC/screengrab)

A refugee who went onto advise a foreign minister has urged the government to live up to the British tradition of “giving refuge to the most vulnerable people”.

Baroness Arminka Helic, 48, fled to the UK from war torn Bosnia when she was 23, but went onto study at the London School of Economics and work for William Hague when he was Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.

She is best known for being the driving influence behind Mr Hague's Global Sexual Violence initiative, along with Hollywood actress Angelina Jolie.

The Baroness, made a peer by David Cameron, was speaking in light of the government’s decision to scrap the Dubs Amendment, designed to provide sanctuary to child refugees.

While 3,000 children were supposed to have benefited from the scheme, only 350 have been helped by the British government.

Yvette Cooper calls backtrack on Dubs amendment 'shameful'

The government’s decision was widely criticised and Baroness Helic has now added her voice to the chorus.

“Britain has a long and proud history of giving refuge to the most vulnerable people,” she told The Times. “I hope that our government will find a way to live up to that ideal, even amid current challenges.

“Of course we have to ensure that the local authorities have the means of meeting this task ... but as they say, where there is a will there’s a way. I hope this is not the end of it and that there is more we can do.”

The government justified its closure of the Dubs Amendment by saying it was “incentivising” migration. Home Secretary Amber Rudd told MPs the scheme was “a magnet for people traffickers”.

A lack of funding and implementation problems in local authorities has also been cited by the government as a reason to end the scheme, though some councils have argued against this.

A total of 294 politicians voted against the Dubs Amendment last week. Five Conservative MPs rebelled, including Will Quincy, who said he was “sad and disappointed” by the response.

Another, Dr Tania Mathias, suggested in the Commons that “Britain should be leading the way, there should be more resources for local authorities”. She also called for the creation of a Minister for Refugees.

Baroness Helic has extensive personal experience with war. She came to the UK after ethnic cleansing in her native country targeted Muslim communities in Bosnia, of which she was a member.

“People were being killed, women were separated and they were being put into camps,” she told the Times. “It was too dangerous so my sisters, their children and my mother fled to Croatia.”

Her family had to walk to the border and cross it on a raft, all while trying to avoid an artillery barrage. After brief respite in Croatia, the country also became embroiled in conflict and Baroness Helic made her way to England with the help of a family she had worked for as an au pair.

One of the family, Lady Jane Nott, put a ticket to England inside a book she asked for.

Recalling the episode, Baroness Helic said: “That is what I want to explain to people about this country, Britain is not Farage, it’s Jane. People who do amazing things.”

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