Lord Dubs, who was a Kindertransport refugee himself, is launching a fund to help bring children fleeing war and persecution to Britain, the JC can reveal.
The Jewish Labour peer and 10 of his fellow Kinder have set up the Alf Dubs Children’s Fund and donated between £500 and £1,000 each. They say they were inspired Sir Nicholas Winton, the man who rescued them.
Lord Dubs, who was born in Prague, was rescued by Sir Nicholas in 1939 and brought to the UK along with 669 other refugee children.
Money raised through his fund will now help Citizens UK’s Safe Passage project to open safe and legal routes to Britain for children stuck in France, Greece, Italy and other countries.
The announcement comes after the government’s decision last week to back out of its commitment to settle 3,000 Syrian child refugees in the UK.
Lord Dubs said: “To launch the scheme in the Jewish Chronicle is important for us, for many reasons.
“The community’s response to the refugee crisis has been fantastic. I have met more rabbis than I can tell you and they have really got behind this issue in a way like no one else.”
As well as providing money to help the Citizens UK campaign to bring children to this country, donations will also support those who are in need of support to rebuild their lives.
Lord Dubs, delivered a petition signed by more than 40,000 people to Downing Street on Saturday, calling on Theresa May to reopen the scheme. He added: “Citizens UK and their Safe Passage project has been at the heart of this work over the last year, breaking new ground in protection and legal advocacy for children.
“My hope is that the support it brings will build on the achievements of this last year and seed initiatives through which we will transform the lives of today’s child refugees.”
He added: “We are seeking to carry forward the legacy of efforts by the British public, when close to 10,000 children were brought to safety from Europe.
“We believe every single child fleeing persecution should have access to a safe and legal route to a place where they can lead a full and dignified life, and that their best interests are paramount.”
Bob and Ann Kirk, who also came to Britain on the Kindertransport and have donated to the fund, explained: “If our private sponsors hadn’t supported us, we wouldn’t be here — nor our children, grandchildren and our new great-grandson. Today’s refugee children also deserve the chance of a secure future.”
On Monday, Jewish organisations led a protest outside the Home Office to express their anger at the announcement of the government’s U-turn.
The silent protest was co-ordinated by Jcore and was attended by more than 50 people, including Rabbi David Mason of Muswell Hill Synagogue and Jonathan Wittenberg, Masorti Judaism’s senior rabbi.
Edie Friedman, executive director of Jcore, said: “Many in the Jewish community feel strongly about this issue. They find it incomprehensible that the government is leaving vulnerable lone children in refugee camps, and on the streets in Greece and Italy, at the mercy of smugglers, traffickers, rapists and radicalisers.
“We call on the government to reverse this decision and to protect these children who are desperate for our help.”
A statement organised by the Jewish Communal Taskforce on Refugees expressed “bitter disappointment that the government will be ending the Dubs scheme for relocating some of the most vulnerable refugee children in Europe. The government is betraying Britain’s history of protecting vulnerable people seeking refuge.”
Jonathan Arkush, Board of Deputies president, wrote to Amber Rudd, the Home Secretary, urging her to reconsider the number of children the government could help.
Mr Arkush said: “The situation in continental Europe is that hundreds of thousands of refugees, including frightened and vulnerable children, have been facing harsh conditions, and there are numerous children being kept away from their parents or family members.
“Many in our community came to the UK as frightened and vulnerable young children — some on the Kindertransport — and were welcomed into this country.
“We expect other communities who are in need to receive the same treatment.”
Rabbis Paul Freedman and Josh Levy, Assembly of Reform Rabbis UK co-chairs, also urged the government to think again.
They said: “When Jews look at refugees, we see ourselves, remembering our historic identity as migrants and refugees.
“Britain is a generous country and has at many times shown kindness and solidarity to those in desperate need. We now call on the government to honour this heritage and show global leadership in welcoming child refugees.”