294 – 276

Refugees Welcome

That was the vote yesterday for an amendment to the Immigration Bill.

A high-profile campaign for the UK to accept 3,000 child refugees stranded in Europe has failed after the government narrowly won a vote in the House of Commons rejecting the plan.

MPs voted against the proposals by 294 to 276 on Monday after the Home Office persuaded most potential (UK government party) rebels that it was doing enough to help child refugees in Syria and neighbouring countries.

The amendment to the immigration bill would have forced the government to accept 3,000 unaccompanied refugee minors, mostly from Syria, who have made their way to mainland Europe.

You’d think there’d come a point where you finally become jaded. Acclimatised. Used to it. This is what that party does – it washes its hands of its own humanity, when it isn’t trampling its own people into the dust. It’s never a shock. Never a surprise. But that never quells the emotions – the anguish, the fury, the resolve. It stings, it aches, it burns away at your guts and your soul. Every. Single. Time.

It’s easy to say this is an overly emotive issue – when dealing with children, after all, it can be all too simple to let sentimentality overtake reason. Nonetheless, I’ll take no lectures from this party – of all parties – on the welfare of children. The people of Scotland did not want this party to have control over who we want coming in or out of our country – we comprehensively rejected them, granting them the lowest vote share in a century and a half. The Other Party were perfectly content to let the UK Government party have control over reserved policies, rather than the party voted for by the largest number of the people of Scotland – because it’s better for David Cameron to control Scotland’s destiny than whoever the people of Scotland choose. It stings, it aches, it burns.

Luckily for us, we have a conduit for those emotions – a channel for our passion. There is a party which will not put “cost implications” and “financial privilege” before the well-being of children in desperate need. Stuart McMillan is a member of that party.

Inverclyde currently houses 6 families from Syria. We lose more than that in depopulation every month. We can take a few more weans.

The Equal Opportunities Committee has produced a piece of work that is helpful in relation to both the wider debate about migration in Scotland and the issue of trafficking.

In the short time that I have been a member of the committee it has proven to be a committee with very little in the way of party politics, and for that I commend every member. The report is testimony to the committee’s joined-up approach to establishing the facts behind serious issues for today’s world.

I am delighted that we have produced an evidence-based report that scotches the myths about migrants taking all the jobs and costing the taxpayer vast sums of money.

The report, which was agreed by all parties on the committee, recognises that migrants can and do play an important social and economic role in Scotland. From employment to education and many more areas within Scotland, migrants contribute vastly to our country.

One example that we did not touch on in the inquiry but which I want to highlight now is the importance of migrants in football. Most Scottish football teams either have had or do have players from outside Scotland. Celtic Football Club, Rangers FC and my own team, Greenock Morton, have all had players from other countries. Morton currently has a player from France and in the past we have had players from Finland. One thing about football is that we do not hear footballers being criticised for coming to this country to play football and nor should they be.

Being involved in this inquiry opened the eyes of all members to some of the erroneous language used in the media, such as “bogus asylum seekers” and “illegal immigrants”. The issue highlights the importance of the power of the media and how they can influence public opinion—that has already been mentioned.

The evidence that we received in the session with the minister was very direct and to the point, and I am sure that it struck a chord with not only parliamentarians in the chamber, but everyone outside the chamber who works with migrants and asylum seekers on a daily basis.

As other members have made clear, the evidence session that we held in Glasgow city chambers, in which we spoke to many people from a range of nationalities and backgrounds, was absolutely fascinating. I always feel that taking the Parliament out to people, particularly in the way in which that session was facilitated, ensures that we get to the nub of the matter and extract the issues directly with a minimum of filtering. That can be only a good thing for policy makers and I hope that we can all learn lessons and work to improve the lives of everyone who lives in Scotland.

The report has 159 pages and 700 paragraphs, and no member who speaks this afternoon has any chance whatsoever of doing its content any justice. Some members have already mentioned trafficking, and I am sure that we will hear more about it later. Clearly, more needs to be done to combat what is a disgusting and hideous practice but, as we will all appreciate, the task is not easy. The underworld is certainly intent on keeping this crime part of its empire but we parliamentarians and, indeed, everyone in the public sector must get to grips with the fact that lives are wrecked as a result of trafficking and must work to get those people back on track.

Time is short and I must apologise for concluding on a negative point. I am disappointed that the UK Government has not responded to our report until today. Given that the report touches on devolved and reserved issues, it was right that it provided a response, but I suggest that waiting until the day of this debate to do so is not in the spirit of the report and does not reflect the consensual manner in which we approached the topic.

Nevertheless, I am happy to say that we have produced a body of work that all members can rightly be proud of. This is just the start. The hard work of repairing broken lives and turning around the misconceptions held by many people starts now and we need to do more to deal with trafficking and to bring those responsible to justice.

I commend the report to the chamber.

– Stuart McMillan, Migration an Trafficking Debate (23rd February 2011)

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One thought on “294 – 276

  1. another good piece of work…well done again. The problem, as ever, is how does this info get into the mainstream? Let’s be honest, the EOC Report is the easy bit. Getting it seen and accepted by people is the hard bit.

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