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Yvette Cooper hails NI refugee record in Amnesty speech

By Staff Reporter

Published 21/10/2016

Yvette Cooper
Yvette Cooper

Former government minister Yvette Cooper MP, last night used a speech delivered in Belfast, to call for a more ambitious response to the refugee crisis.

Ms Cooper, a former Shadow Foreign Secretary, was in the city to give the Amnesty International Annual Lecture.

"Northern Ireland has a proud record on refugees. But the world can - and must - do more," she told a 500-strong audience in the city's Elmwood Hall.

"This is a global crisis we face. Across the world, 65 million people have been driven from their homes by conflict or persecution.

"You will hear the government talk of the pull factor.

"What of the push factor? See the pictures from Aleppo. Bombs launched by the Syrian regime that rip through reinforced concrete, creating craters 20-metres wide.

"So there is no bunker, no cellar in which families can hide. No wonder they run.

"Northern Ireland has a proud history in responding with open arms and open hearts to previous refugee crises. Just as past generations of people from this island have fled famine and conflict to seek new lives in other countries, so too have you offered refuge to those in desperate need - at their time of need.

"Between 1938 and 1948, the Refugee Resettlement Farm, near Millisle in County Down, provided a home for Jewish children who escaped the Nazis on the Kindertransport. And today, the Northern Ireland Executive and your local councils have stepped up to be part of the Syrian resettlement scheme.

"You should be proud of that. But this is a global crisis and the world can - and must - do more. To date, we have allowed the poorest countries to shoulder the greatest responsibility.

"That is simply unfair. No country can solve this alone, but every country, including our own, needs to play its part."

Her lecture formed part of the Ulster Bank Belfast International Arts Festival.

Patrick Corrigan of Amnesty International described Yvette Cooper as "a strong voice for refugee rights, including most recently championing the resettlement of child refugees".

"We are delighted that she has come to Belfast to make a call for the world to do more to help those fleeing violence, conflict and persecution - arguably the most important task of our times," he said.

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