Boris Johnson wants to shut people out, not welcome them. Labour will lead the fight against him

By rejecting freedom of movement and voting against the rights of refugees, Boris Johnson’s government is turning its back on fundamental principles

Rosena Allin-Khan
Saturday 25 January 2020 14:18
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Conservatives vote down plan to help reunite unaccompanied child refugees with UK families

It breaks my heart to say it, but Boris Johnson has the large majority he desperately wanted, and with that majority comes a great deal of power. The consequences of his having that power are now becoming clear.

Just this week, Johnson’s government stripped an amendment to the Brexit Bill put forward by Labour peer Alf Dubs, which would have reunited child refugees with their families living here in the UK. Lord Dubs himself was saved from the Nazis as a child by the Kindertransport, so this is a cause very close to his heart – he understands the weight of emotions felt by these children.

Yet the government, in a clear demonstration of their callousness, decided to reject this amendment.

We have a tough few years of opposition ahead of us, and although the odds are stacked against us, we cannot abandon our values of being an open, forward-thinking, caring society. Do not let anyone tell you the fight is over. We’re not just going to lay down and let Boris Johnson bulldoze over our internationalist principles; we’re going to stand up and fight for them even harder.

In my time working as a humanitarian doctor in conflict and disaster zones across the world, I’ve seen the best and the very worst of society. I am proud of the internationalist views of the Labour Party – we must never turn our backs on the world’s most vulnerable. We must not turn our back on those who are living through the absolute worst of human atrocities.

On the border of Myanmar, it was shocking to listen to stories of Rohingya refugees speaking of having to make the impossible decision of whether to save their child who was thrown alive onto a fire or escape with their surviving child. In Palestine, I was heartbroken to meet children who were undergoing cancer treatment utterly alone because their parents were unable to obtain permits to accompany them.

It is these stories that drive me forward. I want to help the Labour Party focus on making the positive argument for a progressive, internationalist future for our country. We must start passionately making the argument that freedom of movement for EU citizens is a brilliant and positive thing and that there is no place for a hostile environment.

The way EU citizens are being treated by this government, people who have made their lives in this country, who are our friends, colleagues, neighbours and family, is appalling. I work alongside many EU citizens in the NHS when I work shifts as an A&E doctor; their work is vital to maintain patient care. Under the proposed new immigration laws being suggested by this cruel government, it is possible that my own mother, who is Polish, would not even have been allowed to make a home here.

Being an internationalist means valuing all human life equally, no matter where someone comes from. Humanity should have no borders – that’s what the values and principles of the Labour Party represent to me. That’s the progressive, outward looking future I want for our country.

This government’s destructive approach – pulling up the drawbridge, cutting away at the social safety net, turning their back on EU citizens living in the UK, blocking laws protecting child refugees – is a slap in the face to all of us who share these proud internationalist values. We cannot, and we will not, give up. We are going to fight them every step of the way. The Labour Party will be at the forefront of that fight.

Rosena Allin-Khan is Labour MP for Tooting

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