After reading his book, The Lightless Sky (Icons passim), I went to the Odeon last night to see Gulwali Passarlay (who arrived in Britain as a 12-year-old child following a harrowing, unaccompanied journey across Europe from Afghanistan) interviewed.
The audience was a little too us-and-them smug for my taste to be honest, but it was strange indeed to be seeing him on the same night as MPs voted by 294 votes to 276 to reject a plan for Britain to accept 3,000 unaccompanied Syrian child refugees who had travelled to Europe. I'm a little surprised none of the specialists in the Odeon mentioned that it was happening, the amendment to the Government’s Immigration Bill having been proposed by Labour’s Lord Dubs, who himself arrived in Britain as a child refugee fleeing the Holocaust in the 1930s.
Before the debate, Dubs told the Guardian: 'My message to Conservative MPs is that in 1938-39, Britain took 10,000 child refugees from Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia. We were in the lead then and we could take an important step now. The least we can do is say this is a small number and they should be welcome here.'
He escaped because of the Kindertransport (German for "children's transport") an organised rescue effort that took place during the nine months prior to the outbreak of the Second World War. The United Kingdom took in nearly 10,000 predominantly Jewish children from Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia, Poland, and the Free City of Danzig. The children were placed in British foster homes, hostels, schools and farms. Often they were the only members of their families who survived the Holocaust. Read about it in Wikipedia. It is humbling.