Lord Alf Dubs: How we treat asylum seekers is a test of the kind of country we are

We caught up with Lord Alf Dubs, patron of Freedom from Torture and former child refugee, to hear his thoughts on campaigning as well as the new film about Nicholas Winton and Kindertransport children, One Life.

The power of campaigning

“I think the government’s policy towards refugees is pretty awful. And I think anything that works badly against refugees works even worse against survivors of torture. And I think it’s outrageous that the government says that anybody who crosses the Channel by boat is not allowed to claim asylum and might then be sent to Rwanda. I think how some survivors of torture particularly are treated is a pretty shocking demonstration of government policy.

“One has to believe there is something we’re all campaigning for. And I suppose if there is one person that Freedom from Torture helps, and helps to rebuild their life, then that is one victory. Any one person who gets here and is helped by Freedom from Torture and by the system if it works, to rebuild their lives, then that is a positive thing. So, I’m optimistic in the sense of one victory for one person is still a victory for humankind.

“I think if people in this country know more about what asylum seekers have gone through, particularly torture survivors, what’s happened to them, then I think there’s much more sympathy. And we have to tell that story, and the more we tell that story, the more people realise what people arriving here have gone through, then I think there’s more sympathy.”

Kindertransport children

“I’ve met young asylum seekers and refugees, and I have a lot of fellow feeling with them because although I wouldn’t have survived the Holocaust if I hadn’t got out on a Kindertransport when I was six years old in 1939, the fact is, I still had a two-day train journey. Some of these people have escaped horrific situations in their own country. And then they’ve had a nightmare of a journey.

“There were 669 of us who came from Prague, and of course, there were other Kindertransport children from Germany and Austria. And a lot of us, Kindertransport people, we formed a sort of a camaraderie.  And I think what Nicholas Winton did was pretty terrific. It’s an amazing story, and I’m glad the film, One Life, has attributed to something that was very important in history.

“There are many awful things in life, and people look at them and they say this is awful and they walk away and let someone else do it. And Nicholas Winton saw what was happening and he said I’ve got to do something, and that’s what made him different from the others.”

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