UK

Ken Loach Damns Government Over Child Refugees After 'I, Daniel Blake' BAFTA Win

'The most vulnerable and poorest people are treated with a callous brutality'.

12/02/2017 22:24 GMT | Updated 13/02/2017 04:04 GMT

Film-maker Ken Loach has condemned the Government for closing down its child refugee programme as he won a BAFTA for his film I, Daniel Blake.

The director attacked last week’s announcement of the Government taking in just 350 displaced lone children who are fleeing war zones including Syria. 

His film depicts a man from Newcastle struggling to cope with Britain’s welfare system, and has already won the prestigious Palme d’Or at Cannes.

Accepting the award for Outstanding British Film, the 80-year-old:

“The most vulnerable and poorest people are treated by this government with a callous brutality that is disgraceful.

“It’s a brutality that extends to keeping refugee children out that we promised to help. And that’s a disgrace too.

“Films can do many things - they can entertain, they can terrify, they can take us to other worlds, they can make us laugh and they can tell us something about the world we live in.

“In that real world it’s getting darker as we know. In the struggle that’s coming between the rich and the powerful, the wealth and the privilege, and the big corporations and the politicians that speak for them, on the one hand, and the rest of us on the other, the film makers know which side they are on.

“And despite the glitz and the glamour of occasions like this, we’re with the people.”

BBC
Ken Loach collecting his award for Outstanding British Film at the BAFTAs.

Set in Newcastle, ‘I, Daniel Blake’ tells the fictional story of carpenter Daniel Blake who suffers a heart attack and is told by doctors he can no longer work.

Blake - who befriends a single mum also struggling with the system - is forced to hunt for jobs which he has to turn down as he is too sick.

But the director faced criticism from a Conservative MP and former minister, who dismissed his comments as “predictable drivel”.

Last week, the Government said it was allowing just 350 displaced youngsters, not thousands as expected, in to the UK as a result of a shortage of places made available from councils.

Ministers said they had “reasonably” met the “intention and spirit” of the landmark Dubs Amendment. This was the Government pledge named after the Labour peer, Lord Alf Dubs, who campaigned for the UK to accept lone children. Dubs himself was rescued from Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia in 1939 and brought to the UK under the ‘Kindertransport’.

Dubs told HuffPost UK:

“I think what they have done is shabby. It goes against what the government assured me they would do, which is to accept the letter and spirit of the amendment.

“They tried to slip it in between Prime Minister’s Questions and the Brexit votes in the Commons. They’ve done it in an underhand way but the main issue is what they’ve done.  

“It is very disappointing. Yvette Cooper will raise it in the Commons tomorrow and I will try to raise it in the Lords. I’m not giving up.”