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Stand with refugees

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#withrefugees, world refugee day, UNHCR, Liberty, PetitionWe can, we must and we are fighting back against the tide of division.

By Rachel Robinson.

Today, 20 June 2016, is World Refugee Day.

To mark it, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) launched a petition. It demands that national governments ensure every refugee child gets an education, every refugee family has somewhere safe to live and every refugee can work or learn new skills to make a positive contribution to their community.

Amid a collective failure of compassion that has seen barriers – both physical and legal – erected across Europe, and a wave of xenophobia sweeping the continent, the call couldn’t be more urgent.

And its message will ring true for many of us in Britain.

The nasty and divisive rhetoric surrounding the EU referendum campaign plumbed new depths last week as UKIP released a poster channelling the dehumanising hatred of Enoch Powell and his rivers of blood.

But we can, we must and we are fighting back against this tide of division.

At Liberty’s AGM on Saturday, a motion was passed recalling the UK’s proud history of offering sanctuary to refugees – a legacy which we must now urgently reclaim. Liberty members helped to bring this issue home by sharing the experiences of their own families, who – fleeing war and persecution – had been offered a home in the UK.

Whilst no country can solve this human tragedy alone, there is so much more that the UK can do.

Just last week, a UNICEF report revealed the sexual violence, abuse and exploitation facing children stranded in the refugee camps of northern France, just 20 miles from Dover.

Many of these children have family members in the UK ready to care for them.

Our government can and must work to ensure that their claims to join loved ones are processed as quickly as possible.

In May, thanks to the tireless efforts of Lord Alf Dubs – himself a child of the Kindertransport – the government further committed to put in place a scheme to resettle lone children across Europe in the UK.

Consultation is now underway with local authorities and service providers.

The Dubs scheme is just the beginning of a more humane and responsible approach by our Government – but it offers an opportunity for the UK to show leadership in a world where borders are closing and hatred is building.

The government has the chance to offer safety and a future to thousands of children in grave danger. It must act quickly to implement the most meaningful scheme possible.

It must also work to ensure that local authorities have the resources they need to promote the welfare of each child placed in their care.

The regional infrastructure must be built to make sure that children – wherever in the country they are placed – are able to access urgently needed support and services.

As the UNHCR reminded us today, these children need not just a safe place to live, but an education and the chance of a brighter future.

Liberty is standing together #WithRefugees today as a proud signatory of UNHCR’s petition, which is set to be presented to the UN’s headquarters in New York this September.

Closer to home, Liberty will continue to push the UK government to step up to the mark and show the generosity of spirit and the commitment to basic rights and freedoms which is so desperately missing in the international response to the refugee crisis.

A version of this article appeared on Liberty’s website on 20 June 2016.

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