Labour MP Diane Abbott vows to save Yemeni Jews

By Marcus Dysch, March 4, 2010
Home front: Diane Abbott says there’s a safe haven in her constituency for Jews fleeing persecution in Yemen

Home front: Diane Abbott says there’s a safe haven in her constituency for Jews fleeing persecution in Yemen

A Labour MP has accused the government of putting the lives of Yemeni Jews at risk by not doing enough to save them from al-Qaeda and other Islamic extremists.

A year ago, London's strictly Orthodox community worked with Immigration Minister Phil Woolas in the hope that 120 Yemenis could move to Stamford Hill, north London.

The Home Office was expected to agree to allow them to settle in Britain, but the move never happened. Now Diane Abbott, Labour MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington, has stepped in and demanded that they reconsider.

She has tabled an early day motion calling on the government "not to turn its back on people that need its help", claiming the Yemeni Jews are at greater risk due to the Home Office's inaction.

In 2008, yeshivah teacher Moshe Yaish Nahari was shot dead by extremists in Yemen. A recent upsurge in extremist activity has led many rural Jews to move to the capital, Sana'a.

It is thought that less than 300 Jews remain in the country.

Those who had been expected to move to London would have been reunited with family members who have already left. They ranged from children to pensioners, and included professionals and skilled trade workers who speak Yiddish, Hebrew and Arabic. The early day motion, signed by 26 MPs by Wednesday, notes the "ongoing religious persecution and systematic mistreatment" of the remaining Jews and calls for the government to follow the United States administration's actions to help the community resettle in the US.

The anti-Zionist Chasidic Satmar sect has, along with the US State Department, helped some of the community move to America.

Ms Abbott said: "I believe that the lives of this group of Jews are in more danger than ever before.

"If these people do lose their lives to militant Arab extremism, then the British government will stand accused of having known about the danger for over a year but refused to act."

A government spokesman said: "We continue to consider all asylum and immigration applications from Yemeni Jews on their own merits and the government will, of course, continue to monitor the situation."

Last updated: 4:57pm, March 4 2010