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Yvette Cooper MP in Muswell Hill: ‘Including refugees in government net migration targets is immoral’

PUBLISHED: 13:03 21 January 2016 | UPDATED: 13:03 21 January 2016

Yvette Cooper MP, Catherine West MP, Jonathan Featonby and asylum seeker Elsie� spoke at the Fortis Green Labour Party's discussion about refugees at Fortismere School. Picture: Polly Hancock

Yvette Cooper MP, Catherine West MP, Jonathan Featonby and asylum seeker Elsie� spoke at the Fortis Green Labour Party's discussion about refugees at Fortismere School. Picture: Polly Hancock

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Former Labour cabinet minister Yvette Cooper MP said it is “immoral” for the government to include refugees in its net migration quota at a meeting to discuss the humanitarian crisis in Muswell Hill last night.

Yvette Cooper MP, Catherine West MP, Jonathan Featonby and asylum seeker Elsie� spoke at the Fortis Green Labour Party's discussion about refugees at Fortismere School. Picture: Polly HancockYvette Cooper MP, Catherine West MP, Jonathan Featonby and asylum seeker Elsie� spoke at the Fortis Green Labour Party's discussion about refugees at Fortismere School. Picture: Polly Hancock

The chairwoman of Labour’s Refugee Taskforce spoke with tears in her eyes as she described the desperate struggle of migrants to make a new life after fleeing war-torn countries such as Syria.

She said Britain has a “moral responsibility” to take in more refugees and called on the government to do more to help them at the meeting at Fortismere School in Tetherdown.

Addressing hundreds of people, she said: “In Britain, there’s still too many people linking immigration and asylum seekers, when they are very different.

“The government has a net migration target which includes refugees. I think that’s immoral. Including refugees in migration targets is quite terribly wrong.

Yvette Cooper MP, Catherine West MP, Jonathan Featonby and asylum seeker Elsie spoke at the Fortis Green Labour Party's discussion about refugees at Fortismere School. Picture: Polly HancockYvette Cooper MP, Catherine West MP, Jonathan Featonby and asylum seeker Elsie spoke at the Fortis Green Labour Party's discussion about refugees at Fortismere School. Picture: Polly Hancock

“All of us should be ready to help. These are people who have no safe home to return to and who are fleeing persecution.”

Outlining a number of ways in which the government could do more to help refugees, she called for:

- More robust, external border checks to make sure boats are safe

- More financial support for migrant camps, such as the one in Calais, to pay for medicine and schooling

- To break the EU Schengen Agreement and put border controls in place within Europe

- More robust assessments of asylum seekers in the UK to safely rehome those in need and weed out those who are economic migrants

- To put in place a strategy for integrating new arrivals into society with respect for cultural values on both sides.

Ms Cooper, who unsuccessfully ran in the Labour leadership contest last year, also said it was a “disgrace” that contractor Serco was still running scandal-hit immigration removal centre Yarl’s Wood in Bedfordshire.

She called for a ban on pregnant women and victims of sexual abuse being detained, and said there was a fundamental “institutional problem” with centres such as Yarl’s Wood.

Ms Cooper, the MP for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford, was joined on stage by Hornsey and Wood Green MP, Catherine West and the Parliamentary manager for Refugee Council, Jonathan Featonby.

The crowd also heard from 40-year-old Bounds Green resident ‘Elsie’, who described the horrors of being detained in Yarl’s Wood. She was released after four months in August last year.

Elsie, who is bisexual, fled Nigeria in 2002 because of her sexuality. She told the Ham&High that if she were ever to go back, she would be killed.

Despite this, her application for asylum in the UK has been refused.

To read her story and for an in-depth special report from the meeting, see next week’s Ham&High and Ham&High Broadway.

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