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Jewish refugee groups condemn Illegal Migration Bill and government language

Exclusive: The Wiener Holocaust Library and Association of Jewish Refugees urged governments to show compassion

Anita Mureithi
31 March 2023, 10.29am

Home secretary Suella Braverman said in October 2022 that her job was “about stopping the invasion on our southern coast”


Leon Neal/Getty Images

Two UK organisations supporting Jewish refugees who fled the Nazis have condemned the Illegal Migration Bill and the government's language around it.

In a rare political intervention, The Wiener Holocaust Library and the Association of Jewish Refugees (AJR) have written a joint statement, published by openDemocracy, calling for all governments to “demonstrate compassion and give safe harbour to those in danger.”

“Both organisations are increasingly concerned about the impact of the government’s proposed Illegal Migration Bill and the discourse and language surrounding its formulation,” said Wiener Holocaust Library director Dr Toby Simpson and AJR CEO Michael Newman.

Braverman has been widely criticised for referring to migrants arriving in the UK after crossing the Channel in small boats as an “invasion”. In January she was challenged over the comments by holocaust survivor Joan Salter, who said it reminded her of language used to “dehumanise and justify the murder of my family and millions of others.”

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The bill, which passed its committee stage in Parliament this week, aims to stop people claiming asylum in the UK if they arrive by unauthorised means, including by crossing the Channel in small boats. It would give home secretary Suella Braverman powers to deport those that do.

“The Refugee Council rightly points out that people make these dangerous journeys because they have no other options to reach the UK – and that two thirds of those arriving on small boats last year would qualify for refugee status,” the statement added.

The organisations also referenced concerns from the UN Refugee Agency, which said the bill would be a "clear breach" of the UN Refugee Convention.

"In the wake of the Second World War and the Holocaust, during which millions of people were murdered, rendered stateless, and displaced, the UN Refugee Convention was an important step towards better international humanitarian protection for refugees from persecution," the statement said.

"We must not turn back the clock: failure to afford refugees with safe routes and protections all too often results in further terrible and avoidable suffering."

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The statement comes after over 60 NGOs, MPs and academics wrote to Rishi Sunak urging him to scrap the bill.

It added: “While the library’s collections attest to the agony experienced by those who had to flee persecution, the AJR has continuously supported the refugees and survivors, and today disburses welfare aid to those in need,” the statement said.

“Imbued with survivors’ accounts, we are sensitised to the plight of those fleeing oppression, whether through tyranny or war.”

Concluding their statement, the organisations said: “If ‘Never Again’ is to become reality rather than a refrain, we must show leadership to open our doors to bring those at risk out of harm’s way.”

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