Rabbi Harry Jacobi ‘saddened and upset’ by refugee vote

26 April 2016

Liberal Judaism vice president Rabbi Harry Jacobi has told of his upset after the Government narrowly defeated a cross-party bid to get the UK to accept 3,000 unaccompanied child refugees.

Harry – who twice fled the Nazis as a teenager – likened last night’s result in the House of Commons to a similar decision in 1938 to stop Jewish refugees entering Britain.

He said: “I am so very saddened and upset by the votes in the House of Commons. This must have been what Parliament was like in 1938 after the Evian Conference, when refugees were refused admission.

“Too many MPs with hardened hearts just like the biblical story of Pharaoh. To close their eyes and hearts to unaccompanied children, to insist that it is alright to detain pregnant women, and that refugees can still be detained indefinitely simply on the say so of an immigration official. These are not the actions of a world-leading moral civilisation.”

The House of Lords had passed an amendment to the Immigration Bill, compelling the Government to offer sanctuary in the UK to 3,000 unaccompanied child refugees. The amendment was proposed by Lord Dubs, a Kindertransport child, and supported by members of all parties.
However it was rejected by the House of Commons, by 294 votes to 276. Former Home Secretary, Yvette Cooper MP, was a powerful advocate for passing the amendment and spoke of Harry’s journey to Britain in her Commons speech.

Harry added: “I hope the House of Lords will present new amendments on these matters and that consciences will win the day tomorrow.”

The Evian Conference was convened in 1938, after the German annexation of Austria, and attended by 32 countries in order to try and help Jewish refugees.

But Yad Vashem, the world centre of Holocaust research, tells how: “During the conference, it became painfully obvious that no country was willing to volunteer anything. The British delegate claimed that Britain was already fully populated and suffering from unemployment, so it could take in no refugees. Other countries claimed the Depression as their excuse for not accepting refugees.”

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