UK

BBC Question Time: Billy Bragg Says Government Would 'Treat Rest Of Us Like Refugees Given Chance'

Musician condemns closure of child refugee programme.

10/02/2017 00:46 GMT | Updated 10/02/2017 08:50 GMT

Billy Bragg has condemned the Government for closing down a scheme to accept lone refugee children marooned in Europe, arguing the “rest of us” would be treated the same way “if they had a chance”.

Appearing on BBC’s Question Time, the musician and activist spoke out against the Home Office closing the “Dubs scheme” after allowing in just 350 displaced youngsters, not 3,000 as expected.

Lord Alf Dubs, a child refugee from Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia who campaigned for the UK to accept the lone children from France, Italy and Greece, told HuffPost UK the decision was “shabby”.

On the flagship BBC politics show, Bragg said:

“Tony Benn once said the way the government treats refugees is very instructive. It’s the way they would treat the rest of us if they had a half the chance.

“It seems to me a week where the debate has coarsened. Trying to get rid of John Bercow because of the way he spoke out. The Prime Minister accusing Jeremy Corbyn of using ‘alternative facts’. This seems to be part and parcel of this harshness.” 

Of the “Dubs scheme”, he added:

“We have to ask ourselves: what kind of country are we? Are we going to turn away from our responsibilities to the world? Or are we going to step up and do what we said we were going to do and take all 3,000 of these refugee children?”

Minister for Immigration Robert Goodwill used a written statement to announce the Government had “reasonably” met the “intention and spirit” of the amendment added to the Immigration Bill following a public outcry. 

On the show, Labour MP Owen Smith said the move was a “shameful day for our country”, and claimed the Home Office had failed to check with councils about capacity as his local authority could take four times as many children as they have. He said: “I don’t believe for a minute that councils are phoning up the Home Office saying they can’t take any more.”

Tory MP Claire Perry said the criticism was “over-shadowing” the UK’s “incredibly good track record of humanitarian support in one of the world’s toughest regions”.

The panel for Question Time, which came from Torquay, also included ex-Conservative MP Ann Widdecombe and Peter Whittle, of Ukip.