I don’t think I’ve been so angry in a long time – I went onto BBC news online as I sometimes do for updates that I might’ve missed over the last few days, and there it is… an article detailing the cancellation of the Dubs Amendment, or Amendment 115. This means that the scheme set up by Lord Dubs to take 3,500 unaccompanied child refugees is being shut down after taking in just 300. Though the cancellation of the scheme is shameful, and did indeed make me angry, what made it worse was the reaction to the cancellation of the scheme… or worse, the lack of reaction.
We have had protests about Trump all over the UK – however, when our own government refuses to help children, people stay silent. This was what shocked me: how can you not care? How can you ignore children’s welfare, but complain about the President of the USA? Both deserve attention, but the reactions were, in my view, disproportionate, so I decided to do something. There were not enough people getting as enraged as I was.
That’s when I brought my anger to NYQ. It was unsurprising why, as a group, we were unanimous in deciding that something should be done – Quakers believe that all are equal and deserve respect and love, regardless of ethnicity, sexuality, age, and gender. Refugee children cannot be ignored.
Seeing how much this upset us all, we decided to write letters. Getting together as a group meant we could clarify what we wanted to say, and back our concerns up with both scientific evidence that the fleeing of their country and the rejection of refugee children into safe countries damages their mental health, as well as exploring Quaker Faith & Practise to explain why we are compelled to act.
I then went home to write the letter: whilst I wrote the letter, my friend and NYQ attender George was exceptionally helpful in finding the correct people to write the letter to (I had no clue!), including discovering Quaker MPs, as well as finding the article, M. Bronstein, ‘Psychological distress in refugee children: a systematic review’, Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review, 45 (2010), which details the psychological distress forced migration has on children. All of this information was invaluable, and I am exceptionally thankful for everyone’s help – I needed guidance and steering for my anger and worry, and NYQ brought those to me.
Below is an example of one of the letters we sent. Though we understand that the letters are unlikely to change the mind of those who cancelled the amendment, we feel as though this could be the first step of many actions in helping those affected by the worldwide refugee crisis. Please feel free to borrow our wording if you would like to send something similar – let us know how you get on! We look forward to acting on this further and putting our faith into action.
“In every homeless child, every refugee, every criminal or outcast, every worker or preacher, those in authority and those without it, there is a child of God, one who is precious and loved” – Quaker Faith and Practise, 26.50
The Rt Hon. Amber Rudd
Direct Communications Unit
2 Marsham Street
Dear The Rt. Hon. Amber Rudd,
We as the Nottingham Young Quakers, affiliated with the Friends’ Meeting House Nottingham, feel compelled to write to you regarding the premature cancellation of the ‘Dubs Amendment’ to take in unaccompanied refugee children. As Home Secretary, your department oversees the scheme in question. We implore you to consider our letter and for the Home Office to continue with the Dubs Scheme to make the United Kingdom proud, as it once was, of it’s action for refugee children.
The decision to cancel Amendment 115, the so called ‘Dubs Amendment’, is shameful. The United Kingdom has a strong record of welcoming refugee children and those in need, extending back to the rise of the Nazi party. Safe passage for unaccompanied refugee children was provided by the British Government via Kindertransport after a delegation of British Jews and Quakers appealed to the Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain. The agreement by Chamberlain and the Conservative government meant that nearly 10,000 children’s lives were saved.
The decision to cancel the ‘Dubs Amendment’ and allow under 400 children into the United Kingdom is not responsive to the number of children currently unaccompanied in Europe after the devastation of their countries. There are over 600 children unaccompanied still in Calais, with 544 eligible for resettlement under the Dubs Amendment. Since there has been an increase of 32% in unaccompanied children in the last month alone, by the summer, there could be up to 1,000 .
This would cause significant psychological stress to children. Post-migration stresses and “a lack of personal and structural support along with greater restrictions in living arrangement” were found to be directly linked to the development of PTSD, depression and anxiety in refugee children: up to 54% of refugee children studied showed signed of PTSD alone . The unknown outcome of their journeys along with the withdrawal of the prospect of help from governing bodies also directly links with the damage of refugee children’s mental health .
Therefore, we feel compelled to write to you about the cancellation of the ‘Dubs Amendment’ prematurely because of our belief that we should be, as George Fox suggested, “examples in all countries, places… answering that of God in everyone”. Therefore, we cannot shirk our responsibility to those in need; we cannot ignore the decision to abandon the unaccompanied children once the ‘Dubs Amendment’ has been cancelled.
We hope that you will reconsider your decision.
On behalf of Nottingham Young Quakers.
“Guided by the Light of God within us and recognising that of God in others, we can all learn to value our differences in age, sex, physique, race and culture. This enables mutual respect and self-respect to develop, and it becomes possible for everyone to love one another as God loves us… we have a responsibility to protect each other’s self-respect.”- Quaker Faith and Practise, 23.33
- Help Refugees, ‘New Calais census released – 700 children in Calais, 78% on their own’ (2017) http://www.helprefugees.org.uk/news/new-calais-census-released-700-children-in-calais-78-on-their-own/, accessed 17th February 2017.
- M. Bronstein, ‘Psychological distress in refugee children: a systematic review’, Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review, 45 (2010), p. 45.
- J. Jani, D. Underwood & J. Ranweiler, ‘Hope as a crucial factor in integration among unaccompanied immigrant in the USA: a pilot project’, Journal of International Migration and Integration, 17/4 (2016), pp. 1195-1209.