Tim Farron's speech at refugee solidarity rally

A few weeks ago, I went to Calais. I talked there with about 20 refugees.  I heard their stories of harrowing risks, dangers fled, and desperation for their children.

I have to tell you, not a single one of them mentioned benefits.

They wanted to come to Britain to be safe, to work, to contribute. 

They see our country as a place of opportunity, a place to make the most of yourself, a place where you can be the best you can be. 

Because you don’t risk everything clinging to the bottom of a truck if you’re looking for an easy life.

I met a 14 year-old boy who had broken both of his legs trying to board a lorry, he was in a wheelchair pushed by a boy who was 11.  Both had lost their parents, both were alone.

After the second world war, Britain offered homes to up two thousand children whose parents had been murdered in the Holocaust.  I know this because around 300 of them came to my constituency to recuperate and became known as the Windermere boys.  In all the UK provided homes to 700 such children. 

That was all who were left alive to take up our offer. 

It could have been so different if the offer had been made earlier but we could not have known that so few would have survived without our help. 

We must learn from our mistakes.  20,000 places over five years would have been no use in 1939.   It will be no use today.   The crisis is now.

And I find myself thinking about the Jewish refugees that our grandparents did save. And about the Uganda Asians to whom we were able to offer a safe haven from that murderous tyrant, Idi Amin. 

And it makes me realise the pride I feel in Britain when we do show such generosity of spirit. 

So I call on the Government to opt in to the plan to take our fair share of the refugees to be relocated within the EU.   An international solution to an international crisis.

This is the Britain in which I want to live. 

The Britain that stands tall and rolls up its sleeves to help solve an international crisis; The Britain that is proud of its history of welcoming refugees; the Britain that sees the person, not the label – the small boy – the mirror of ourselves. 

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