Yvette Cooper MP

Working hard for Normanton, Pontefract, Castleford & Knottingley

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Think on two children.                    

Aged ten and nine. Primary school children by the side of a busy road.

A ten year old who’s father was killed when extremists took hold of their village.

Whose mother paid smugglers to take the boys away.

They live on their own in a muddy tent.

And each night they run along the side of a motorway - waiting for a lorry going slow enough to climb aboard.

They are scared.

And they should be.

Two weeks ago a fourteen year-old fell off the lorry he clung to and was hit by a car.

Killed, trying to reach his brother in Britain.

He had a legal right to be here, yet he lived for months in danger and squalor.

And he died by the side of a road. How have we let this happen?

Sometimes people say to me this is not our problem. Just walk by on the other side of the road.

But these are children whose lives are at stake, someone’s young son, someone’s teenage daughter.

Our children.

Our common humanity.

Conference on suffering children, this country and this party must never turn our backs.

And I want to pay tribute to those who are working so hard to help.

To all the community groups and organisations we have worked with in the Refugee Taskforce, to Save the Children, Citizens UK, Help Refugees, UNICEF, the Churches, the Synagogues and Mosques, Care4Calais groups in towns and Cities across the UK.

To thank Jeremy and Tom, Andy Burnham and Kate Osamor for the support they have given and continue to give to the Refugee Taskforce’s work. To Stella Creasy and Thangam Debbonaire who’ve played such important roles.

To thank the councils across the country encouraged by Nick Forbes who have stepped forward and said yes we will help,

And the campaigners from all parties who worked with us to change the law

A promise to do our bit, just as our country did when we rescued 10,000 Jewish children from the Nazis in Europe.

Alf Dubs was one of those children, six years old, put on a train in Prague bound for England to escape the war. Three quarters of a century on.

Alf, lifelong campaigner for social justice, Labour councillor, Labour MP then Labour Lord, each time leading the way with his amendment so that Britain does its bit again to help a new generation of child refugees.

Giving them the new future our country gave him.

For them, and for all of us,

Lord Alf Dubs - We pay tribute to you today.

This is a global crisis we face. Across the world 65 million people driven from their homes by conflict or persecution. You will hear the Government talk of the pull factor. What of the push factor? See the pictures from Aleppo.

Bombs launched by the Syrian regime that rip through reinforced concrete, creating craters twenty metres wide. So there is no bunker, no cellar in which families can hide

No wonder they run.

Most incredible of all are those who stay – the doctors who stay to treat the wounded. The white helmets who stay to rescue those left alive. On Saturday, our Conference remembered the humanitarian work Jo Cox fought for throughout her life.

And today I also want to pay tribute to Jo’s family, who through their support of the White Helmets keep Jo’s work alive now. No country can solve this alone, but every country needs to play its part:

No one says it is easy.

People are worried about security, worried that the system can be abused or will be out of control. 

And we should be clear.

Helping refugees doesn’t mean open borders.

We need strong border checks to stop smuggler gangs, criminals and extremists exploiting the crisis.

We need fast and robust asylum procedures so that refugees get swift help and illegal migrants have to return so that everyone can have faith in the system

We need proper integration plans for refugees and their families.

But conference, immigration and asylum are different – too often the Government treats them as the same.

Many people I have spoken to who want more controls on the number of people who come here to work, also think we should our bit to help those fleeing persecution who have no safe home to which they can return.

Refugees are less than 5 percent of those who come to our country.

So we should never let fear of the difficult politics of immigration paralyse us from helping refugees.

But nor must we be paralysed from debating immigration reform either – or our tin ear to the concerns of the country will stop others listening to our case for helping refugees.

Just as people want to know the asylum system is fair, managed and controlled

They want to know that the immigration system is too.

And it isn’t racist to talk about how best every country manages migration or to say that whilst immigration is important, low skilled migration should come down.

And saying this should not spark a row it should open up the debate.

In the referendum people voted against free movement. But there is no consensus over what people voted for.

Between cities and towns,

Between Scotland and England,

Young and old,

And we should be part of a serious, thoughtful debate on what fair rules should be,

We cannot do that if we dig in from the start. But here’s what we must never do.

We won’t use fear on immigration as reason not to help those most in need,

We won’t call people “swarms” or “hoards” - they are mothers, fathers and children.

And we will never ever do what Nigel Farage did in the referendum campaign and use a poster of desperate people to stoke fear and hatred.

That man should be ashamed.

So conference, our country rightly leads the way with international aid.

I am glad the Conservative Government has maintained that commitment

And proud that it was Labour campaigners many years ago who set the aid target, and the last Labour Government who brought it in.

But on sanctuary our country isn’t doing enough.

Just 3,000 of the promised 20,000 Syrian refugees have come. After the Dubs amendment, so far no children from Greece or Italy have been helped.

And Calais should be a scar on the conscience of both France and Britain.

Ten thousand people. One thousand children alone.

Scabies rife. Violence and sectarianism in camp. Lorry drivers facing intimidation and serious safety threats.

No one assessing asylum cases, no one protecting the children. 

This is a shameful failure by the French authorities in the basic duty to keep children safe. But Britain has a responsibility too. Hundreds of those children have family in Britain, but they are still stuck waiting months.The foot dragging, the bureaucracy, the delays are a disgrace.

 So Conference, we should support the contemporary resolution today. And Parliament should back Alf Dubs new amendment – drafted by Stella Creasy – to bring in safeguarding for child refugees.

France plans to dismantle the camp moving people to accommodation centres across the country.  But there are no places being provided for lone children.

Last time the authorities cleared part of the camp, over a hundred children just disappeared.

So let each country now agree to take half the lone children straight away.

Let’s get all of these children into safety fast while their assessments are done, so there is no child left alone in the Calais mud and cold by the time Christmas comes.

Because this stalemate over children is dangerous.

France says its Britain’s problem

Britain says it’s up to the French

I am sick of this standoff. Children’s lives and safety are at risk.

Both Governments need to get a grip and act.

Conference, I’ve heard from child and teenage refugees who want to be engineers, scientists, doctors, footballers.

But the one who surprised me was a teenager helped by Citizens UK and our political campaign, who said he wants to get involved in politics.

He said politics destroyed his country, but politics also saved his life.

Now he wants to help, to give something back, just as Alf has done so many years on.

Because politics matters. So if ever you despair at the state of our politics even the divisions you think there are in our party.

If ever you think of walking away,

If ever you want to know why so many of us carry on,

Think of him and the children we can help,

Think of him and the lives Labour Governments have saved,

Think of him, of Alf, the Kindertransport,

of future doctors, poets, nobel laureates,

husbands, sisters, mothers, children.

Of the amazing things we can do together, the people we can help, the amazing things that Labour can do.

Conference – that’s what our politics is all about.

Ends

Yvette's speech to Labour Annual Conference 2016

CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY Think on two children.                     Aged ten and nine. Primary school children by the side of a busy road. A ten year old who’s father was killed when...

Bereavement is one of the hardest things any of us ever has to cope with. And it’s even tougher if a loved one's last hours or days are difficult or if you don't feel they got the care they needed.

That's what happened to the Fanshawe family who came to see me after Mrs Fanshawe's mother died at the end of a short illness in Pinderfields last year. The nursing staff were working immensely hard. However staff shortages had become so serious that at one point she had to wait two hours for a bed pan, and the family had to step in to provide care and support on the hospital ward themselves. 

Mid Yorkshire Trust have apologised and the new Chief Executive has been keen to work with the Fanshawes and with others to make sure it doesn't happen again. And it can’t be stressed enough how hard our NHS staff work delivering vital care every day of the year.

But let's be honest, they have a fundamental problem: there are far too few nurses and too few doctors on our wards, in our hospitals and in our entire NHS.

Staff shortages at Mid Yorkshire Trust are far too high. We've lost neurology services and got long delays for the pain clinic because of recruitment problems. Sickness rates are increased by stress.

Pinderfields, Pontefract and Dewsbury aren't the only hospitals struggling. The whole of Yorkshire - and the whole of the country is affected. This is turning into a serious NHS crisis and the Government needs to act.

That's why I called a debate in Parliament but I'm appalled at the Government's response. First the Tories cut the number of doctor and nurse training places a few years ago. Then they picked big fights with junior doctors so many of them are leaving the profession. And now they want to abolish student nurse bursaries - making it much harder for people to train to be a nurse.

Our NHS is precious - but its strength is in its people. I'm going to keep demanding urgent action from Ministers so families like the Fanshawes get care and support when they need it most.

 .......................

New Prime Minister Theresa May hasn't been chosen by the country or by Tory party members. So I think she may call a General Election sooner than 2020 - perhaps even before Christmas this year.

Given the serious damage the Tories are doing to our NHS, our communities and local jobs, it's vital we have a strong and effective Labour Party that is determined to take the Tories on.

That's why I'm backing Owen Smith in this summer's Labour leadership contest. Owen grew up in South Wales in a coalfield area like ours and his politics were formed during the miner’s strike. In the last few weeks he's announced new plans to back British manufacturing industry and jobs.

I've long argued that Labour has to be a strong voice for towns and coalfield areas, not just for the cities. We can't stand by while any communities are left behind. We saw that in the 1980s and we can’t allow it to happen again now.

Hard-working Mid-Yorks staff need more support

Bereavement is one of the hardest things any of us ever has to cope with. And it’s even tougher if a loved one's last hours or days are difficult or...

Last week I hosted an adjournment debate in the House of Commons to discuss with Health Ministers the situation around staffing levels at Mid-Yorkshire Health Trust.

You can see my speech as well as comments from my colleague Paula Sherriff MP​ and the response from the Health Minister below.

Adjournment debate in the House of Commons

Last week I hosted an adjournment debate in the House of Commons to discuss with Health Ministers the situation around staffing levels at Mid-Yorkshire Health Trust.


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Recent Refugee Taskforce

Yvette Cooper MP, Chair of Labour’s Refugee Taskforce, writes to the PM on setting a milestone for resettling unaccompanied child refugees

Ahead of the debate on the Government’s announcement on resettling lone child refugees in the Immigration Bill today, Yvette Cooper Chair of Labour’s Refugee Taskforce has written to the Prime Minister calling on him to commit to swift action to help hundreds of children this summer so they can get into school by the beginning of the Autumn term.

Many lone child refugees, particularly those from Syria have not been in school for years. The letter joins the calls from faith leaders today for the Government to ensure children helped by the new scheme are able to enter school as soon as possible.

She is also calling for more detail on how the new commitment will be implemented to make sure it delivers on the spirit of the Dubs amendment in practice.

***

The Rt Hon David Cameron MP

Prime Minister

10 Downing Street

London

SW1A 2AA

 

9th May, 2016

 

Dear Prime Minister,

Can I welcome your decision to accept Lord Alf Dubs amendment, and the principle that Britain should do its bit to help child refugees who are on their own and at great risk in Greece, Italy and France.

I am glad that the Government has listened to the cross party support, and the many organisations who have been campaigning on this and who are very keen to work with the Government to put this commitment into practice. Last week in Athens I met with Greek Ministers who told me that resettling lone child refugees was vital to ensure their safety.

UNICEF and Save the Children estimate that well over 1,000 children in Greece are not in proper accommodation because children’s homes are full and are either alone in makeshift camps, sleeping rough or even being kept in detention.

I have met many children and teenagers living in squalid conditions in makeshift camps, children who have been trafficked, and who are at serious risk of abuse and violence. In Calais, I have have met children of 11 and 12 years old who have family here in Britain that could look after them, but who have been waiting for months alone because of Government bureaucracy.

The decision to resettle some of these children is a life changing one and I wholeheartedly applaud this change of heart from the Government.

However, we must now make sure this commitment is delivered in practice. We therefore want to know further information from the Government about the practical steps and milestones needed to make sure that a significant number of children and teenagers can very swiftly be given sanctuary here.

Senior faith leaders including the former Archbishop of Canterbury have today called for all children in Calais with valid legal claims to be reunited swiftly with family in Britain, and 300 of the most at risk unaccompanied children in Greece and Italy to be brought to Britain by the start of the new school year in September.

This would be an important early milestone and would show the Government's commitment to swift progress so children aren't caught up in more bureaucratic delays. Can I urge you to commit to this plan to make sure children are swiftly helped and that we get them back into school and the education they need as fast as possible.

The Government has shown with the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme that, by working with local authorities, and providing the extra support needed, we can move quickly to resettle vulnerable refugees. And I pay tribute to the work of Minister for Syrian Refugees Richard Harrington in this.

Can you give a commitment that the Government will work with the LGA in a similar way to provide the additional support needed for specifically to help arriving child refugees, to make sure that local authorities are actually able to provide places in practice?

The LGA have made clear they are keen to help, but it is important that they are given the support they need and that children are relocated across the country, rather than putting pressure on a small number of local authorities.

 

Please can you also provide us with more details of the funding that will be  need much more detail about the funding that in place for local authorities to properly support these children’s needs, as well as the process for identifying children to be resettled to the UK?

Other organisations, including faith groups and charities have also offered to help. As you may be aware, independent schools have already offered to make available 80 funded places to child refugees, indeed I have been contacted directly by schools wanting to help. Can I urge the Government to urgently work with wider organisations to see what additional support they can give to maximise the number of children and teenagers we can help.

These children haven’t been in school for many months, some many years. Resettling 300 of the most vulnerable child refugees from Europe in time for the start of the new school year, as well as expediting the cases of the children in Calais is the minimum we should be doing and I urge you to listen to the call from faith leaders and make this commitment today.

Tonight thousands of child refugees will sleep rough and in makeshift camps across Europe, on their own, I urge you to act swiftly to deliver on your commitment to resettle some of those children and teenagers as swiftly as possible so that we don't leave them at risk any longer.

 

Rt Hon Yvette Cooper MP

Chair of Labour’s Refugee Taskforce

Letter to the Prime Minister on setting a milestone for delivery of child refugees commitment

Yvette Cooper MP, Chair of Labour’s Refugee Taskforce, writes to the PM on setting a milestone for resettling unaccompanied child refugees Ahead of the debate on the Government’s announcement on...

Responding to the Government re-announcement on resettling child refugees from the Middle East and North Africa, Yvette Cooper, Chair of the Refugee Taskforce said:

“This is the same announcement as the Government made back in January and includes nothing new to help the thousands of child refugees alone in Europe who are at risk of trafficking, sexual exploitation and abuse. It doesn't address the crisis within Europe and I hope MPs of all parties will back Alf Dubs amendment on Monday. 

“As we said at the time, we welcome vital support for children and families at risk in the Middle East and North Africa, but we also cannot turn our backs on the thousands of children who are going missing in Europe because children's homes in Italy and Greece are full, and other countries can't cope with this crisis alone.

“It seems the Government has made this re-announcement because they are under pressure over the vote on Monday. But it is disappointing that they haven’t listened to our call for them to help children in Europe. They are ignoring the whole point of the amendment which was for Britain to do its bit and help 3,000 of the 95,000 unaccompanied children who have arrived in Europe. Many of these children even have family here in Britain who could care for them but there was also nothing new in this announcement to sort out the appalling failures in the family reunification system either.

“Children are risking their lives every day making dangerous journeys, and Europol estimate at least 10,000 children have disappeared in the crisis, many trafficked into prostitution and modern slavery. Many children are sleeping rough or in makeshift camps because children's homes are full, and many have been sexually abused and exploited too.

“Britain must not stand by when so many children are at risk on our doorstep. We must listen to the calls of Kindertransport survivors who ask that Britain show the same values today as we did decades ago, and vote on Monday to help 3,000 unaccompanied child refugees at risk in Europe.”

ENDS

 

Notes:

In January under pressure of a defeat in the Lords, the Government announced they would resettle unaccompanied children from the Middle East and North Africa:

http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-statement/Commons/2016-01-28/HCWS497/

Yvette's response to the Government re-announcement on resettling child refugees from the Middle East and North Africa

Responding to the Government re-announcement on resettling child refugees from the Middle East and North Africa, Yvette Cooper, Chair of the Refugee Taskforce said:

Yvette Cooper, Chair of Labour’s Refugee Taskforce, has written to the Prime Minister following his comments on unaccompanied child refugees in Calais at the Franco-British Summit:

3rd March, 2016

 

Dear Prime Minister,

This afternoon at the press conference with President Hollande after the Franco-British Summit you said that lone child refugees with family in Britain can apply to join their family here, under the Dublin convention.

However this is not happening in practice and urgent action is needed by the British and French Governments to protect these extremely vulnerable children and teenagers from criminal gangs, prostitution, trafficking and abuse.

Charities have said that it is currently taking 9 months for a ‘take charge’ request to be processed. Can you tell me why it is taking this long and what these vulnerable refugees are supposed to do in the meantime?

Charities have also said that so far Britain has not accepted a single ‘take charge’ request involving unaccompanied minors in Calais, and in the past few weeks have rejected two such requests.

Is this true? Given your commitment today to implement the Dublin Agreement how can the Government justify not accepting any requests at all? Can you urgently review the Home Office handling of these take charge applications so that young refugees with relatives who can protect them can get urgent help?

Furthermore, the Government is appealing the ruling from the Upper Tribunal that three unaccompanied children and a mentally ill sibling be allowed to travel to Britain immediately to be in the care of their close relatives while they apply for asylum, rather than wait in the Calais camp with no one looking after their welfare.

Given the extreme vulnerability of these unaccompanied child refugees, why is the Government still appealing against the ruling? And will the Government now drop its appeal against the Upper Tribunal ruling and do everything it can now to work with the French authorities to fast-track the cases of unaccompanied children with family here?

Charities in Calais estimate there are some 150 lone children in Calais who have family here in Britain who could look after them while their asylum claim is being processed.

In January you announced that £10m would be made available specifically for the identification of unaccompanied children in Europe who could be reunited with family, and as you know that was welcomed as a step forward.

Since this announcement, how many children in Calais have been identified? And what discussions have taken place with Citizens UK, Save the Children and Help Refugees, working in Calais to help reunite them with their family as soon as possible?

These children, some as young as 11 and 12, are alone and at terrible risk. According to Europol some 10,000 lone child refugees have simply disappeared in Europe in this crisis.

You and I both have children of a similar age. None of us would conscience our own children living alone in these conditions. Nor would we want them to be vulnerable to abuse, gangs or prostitution. We have a moral duty not to turn our backs on them now, especially when they have relatives ready to keep them safe.

Both you and the French President have rightly recognised that these vulnerable children and teenagers need help, and where they have family in Britain who can look after them they should be reunited.

However both the British and French bureaucracies are badly failing these children now. It is shameful that our two proud countries are proving incapable of sorting this out when so much is at stake. I urge you to end the foot dragging and make sure there is urgent action between both Governments to rescue these children before more of them simply disappear.

Yours Sincerely,

 

Rt. Hon Yvette Cooper MP

Chair of Labour’s Refugee Taskforce

Yvette Cooper letter to David Cameron following comments on child refugees in Calais

Yvette Cooper, Chair of Labour’s Refugee Taskforce, has written to the Prime Minister following his comments on unaccompanied child refugees in Calais at the Franco-British Summit:


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