Former Kindertransport child calls on future PM to welcome refugees

Sir Erich Reich, child of the Kindertransport

Sir Erich Reich, child of the Kindertransport - Credit: Archant

A philanthropist and former refugee has urged the next government to ensure the safe passage of thousands more children, as he shared a stage with two Syrian refugees.

Fares & Abdullah in conversation with World Jewish Relief's Rebecca Singer

Fares & Abdullah in conversation with World Jewish Relief's Rebecca Singer - Credit: Archant

Sir Eric Reich, from Highgate, who arrived on the Kindertransport from Vienna aged four in 1935, spoke movingly at the House of Lords on Tuesday - the evening after the Manchester terror attack.

He urged our next prime minister to reopen a formal child refugee scheme at a World Jewish Relief fundraising event.

The Dubs Amendment, designed by fellow Kindertransport refugee, Lord Alfred Dubs, was expected to welcome around 3,000 vulnerable children, but it closed early, after helping around 350 children.

Sir Eric said: “I am sure that some of you have seen the monument at Liverpool Street Station of the Kindertransport children.

“It’s a reminder to all of us that these things can happen not just 80 years ago, but today.”

Sir Eric, who is chairman of the Association of Jewish Refugees, has raised tens of millions of pounds for charity through his company Classic Tours.

Most Read

He arrived with one of his brothers in England in 1939, after Kristallnacht, “without a visa or a passport and with a £50 guarantee”.

Once in England, he was taken in by socialists in Surrey who had fled from the Nazis in Czechoslovakia.

Sir Eric said: “It doesn’t matter the religion, it doesn’t matter the colour of your skin, all that matters is that we’re all in this together.”

Two Syrian refugees, Fares and Abdullah, who arrived in Bradford six months ago, followed Sir Eric to speak on stage.

The brothers, both in their twenties, originally fled from Syria to Lebannon.

They were brought to the UK under the vulnerable persons resettlement scheme, which helps Syrian refugees in Lebannon and Jordan.

Speaking in carefully-constructed sentences, using their new language, they described how World Jewish Relief has helped them learn English and find volunteering work.

Abdullah, who arrived in Lebannon with his brother and mother when he was 14, was forced to work for 12 hour days to survive, before being chosen to come to England.