Kindertransport survivors call for routes to sanctuary for child refugees

By agency reporter
November 17, 2018

In the chaotic months before the outbreak of World War II, Jewish people were in desperate need of help to escape German-occupied Europe. Quakers were among those who responded, creating the Kindertransport to bring children to safety and persuading the government to amend visa requirements. Today, some of the survivors are urging the UK government to provide more routes to sanctuary for child refugees.

The Kindertransport was an extraordinary operation. Nearly 10,000 children were rescued. Of the six million Jews who died in the concentration camps, a million and a half were children. Many of the survivors' families perished.

On 15 November 2018, 80 years on, 1000 people attended a commemoration in Friends House in London – which was the centre of Quakers' response. Government ministers, religious leaders, Kinder and their families will honour and celebrate the many people of all faiths and none who were involved.

The Kinder, who were among 10,000 mostly Jewish children brought to the UK from German-occupied Europe as unaccompanied child refugees, are supporting the 'Our Turn' campaign, led by refugee charity Safe Passage and Alf Dubs – who at the age of six arrived alone on the Kindertransport from Prague.

Their statement, coordinated by Alf Dubs and fellow Kindertransportee Erich Reich, said, "As former child refugees ourselves, we believe the UK government should give more children at risk the same life-saving opportunity that we had... Children seeking asylum have left their homes, their countries, their friends and families. They continue to live in unsanitary and unsafe camps or on the streets because the alternative is war, conflict and persecution. They have no other choice. But we do have a choice."

Helen Drewery, Head of Witness and Worship for Quakers in Britain, welcoming all to Friends House, said, "We are pleased to be hosting an event which honours all those – including Quakers who put the Kindertransport into effect. Their endeavours are being echoed today by nearly 100 Quaker meetings across Britain which have identified themselves as Sanctuary Meetings and are supporting people who have fled from danger in their home countries. We are glad that these Meetings and the people they are supporting are represented at today's event. We join them in pressing for more safe passages."

* More about Sanctuary Meetings here

* Safe Passage http://safepassage.org.uk/

* Quakers are known formally as the Religious Society of Friends. Around 23,000 people attend 478 Quaker meetings in Britain. Their commitment to equality, justice, peace, simplicity and truth challenges them to seek positive social and legislative change.

*Quakers in Britain http://www.quaker.org.uk/

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