Child refugees: Do more to help, activists tell Hackney as part of plan to bring 10,000 stranded youngsters to UK

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Driven by past horrors: Rabbi Herschel Gluck campaigns at one of the Kindertransport memorials at Liverpool Street station

HACKNEY COUNCIL MUST DO more for child refugees, say activists for migrants from war zones. 

A charity, Safe Passage, wants the UK government to resettle 10,000 children over the next 10 years, the same number brought here by the Kindertransport scheme devised 80 years ago. 

Safe Passage is asking local authorities to promise to welcome them. The Our Turn campaign is inspired by the scheme started in 1938, when British diplomat Nicholas Winton (1909-2015) organised the transport of 196 children to the UK. 

Eventually, 10,000 children, mostly Jewish, came from countries where Nazi racist terror was a key part of fascist Germany’s conquest of most of Europe in the Second World War.

To promote Our Turn, the award-winning Child Migrant Stories (CSM) project will host a free evening of short films at Sutton House in Homerton on Wednesday 24 October at 6pm.

The films look at the experiences of child migrants to the UK, including the Kindertransportees who came to Hackney; Syrian children on the Isle of Bute, in the Western Isles of Scotland; and young people who crossed Europe  unaccompanied.

CSM’s Eithne Nightingale press-released: “The screening will present a snapshot of the diverse range of experiences of child refugees arriving in the UK over the last 80 years.” The aim was to encourage discussion on how Hackney as a community could help these “vulnerable and resilient children”.

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Safe at last: Kindertransport children arrive in London after hours of travelling by train as they fled their German homes

Mike Hamilton, a Safe Passage activist in Hackney, said child refugees today face “almost-impassable barriers” to get to the UK. She added: “Thousands have died trying to reach safety and thousands more have had their lives put on hold in camps or on the streets in Europe. 

“We’re calling on Hackney council to pledge places to welcome more child refugees to help us to convince the government that it’s time to resettle more children.”

The films to be screened at Sutton House include interviews with young migrants over the years as well as those who know, or care for, them, including teachers, lawyers, activists, therapists and youth workers.

Ref©DA18: refugee flyer found in N16 191018 ©
Suffer the children to come to Britain: flyer for an agitprop artwork

Rabbi Herschel Gluck, a Hackney resident whose parents individually arrived in the UK on the Kindertransport, said: “We have to try and put ourselves in their [child refugee’s] shoes to think… how we would feel. And how we would expect others to treat us and have a more compassionate and more understanding, a deep appreciation of the refugee experience and what we can do to help them to integrate into British society.”

David Altheer 221018

* Child Migrant Stories will be at Sutton House, 2 Homerton High Street, Hackney E9 6JQ (020 8986 2264), just SE of Sutton Place, on Wednesday 24 October at 6pm. Free. Photographs: supplied, apart from flyer pic

* Lord Alfred Dubs, himself a Kindertransportee, has launched an online petition for at-risk child refugees to be given protection in the UK, just as Britons did 80 years ago. You are asked to sign it.

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