Alf Dubs: After his child separation policy, how can we welcome Donald Trump to this country?

Posted On: 
22nd June 2018

The British public have been shocked by the scenes of children being torn from their parents at the US border. It cannot be right to invite Donald Trump to visit at this time, says Alf Dubs 

A visit from Donald Trump "would fly in the face of British public opinion", Alf Dubs writes
Credit: 
PA

The United States, a country built on migration, has, for many years, been admired by the rest of the world for its humanitarian policies towards migrants and refugees.

I remember during the 90s many Haitians fled the brutal dictatorship in their country. I happened at the time to be part of an international NGO delegation visiting various Caribbean countries. One of the senior politicians I spoke to there said to me “one more Haitian arriving here and this island will sink into the sea. I do not intend to let that happen”. He explained to me that when Haitian refugees tried to land on his island he ordered the boats to be forced back out to sea regardless of whether or not they were sea-worthy.

So all the boats with Haitian refugees made their way to the United States where, without exception, they were welcomed ashore. In ‘little Haiti’ in Miami people knew that US policy was saving lives. 

The contrast with today could not be starker. As I watched the scenes of crying refugee children, some 2,300 of whom I understand have been separated from their parents in detention camps on the Mexican border, I could not recall a time when the United States’s reputation in the world has been so diminished.

Trump’s subsequent U-turn on the separation policy will, I hope, end the trauma of children being torn from their parents. But the U-turn, forced on the President by the decent instincts of the American people, comes without details of how those families affected will be reunited, and what policies will now be put in place instead.

The British Prime Minister has been rightly critical of Trump’s separation policy, describing it as “deeply disturbing”, “wrong” and “not something we agree with”. But she went on to say “we have a special, long-standing and enduring relationship with the United States…and it is important that we make sure that when we welcome…the President of the United States here in the United Kingdom we are able to have discussions, which means that when we disagree with what they are doing, we say so”.

But I believe that most voices here feel the invitation should now be put on hold. Donald Trump’s visit would not be a popular one – it would fly in the face of British public opinion, and would arouse strong protests at a time when there is little good will for such a visit.

Where would that leave US policy towards Britain and indeed towards Europe? Would the President retaliate? He has already shown hostility towards European countries, including our own. He recently imposed heavy tariffs on British steel and has been more willing to praise Kim Jong Un, a brutal dictator, than leaders of democracies.

Of course he is fully entitled to pursue policies he regards as being in US interests. But it is depressing that in this case it is in clear violation of the United States’s own long-established beliefs and principles. 

Just as we should respect our own long-standing principles and beliefs when deciding which world leaders we would like to welcome. Which must mean, for now, calling a rain check on Trump.   

Lord Dubs is a Labour peer