On Wednesday 22 January six students from St John’s School in Marlborough, Marlborough College, Kingsbury Green School, Calne and St Mary’s, Calne presented a report on the issue of migration to the All Party Group for Migration in the House of Lords and asked vital questions of politicians on some of the issues surrounding this topic.
George Amos, Jack Hughes, Izzy Harte, Callum Roberts, Maisie Medcalf and Libby Yeoman had all been members of the 2019 Thriving Through Venture group that had studied migration both in Wiltshire and in The Gambia. In Wiltshire they had met with migrants into the UK, refugees attending the Harbour Project in Swindon and members of the Gambian diaspora living in Bristol.
In Marlborough’s link community of Gunjur they had listened to the stories of failed migrants who had taken what is described as ‘the back way’ to Europe; migrants who had met with such appalling abuse and conflict in Libya they had returned to The Gambia. In the case of Pa Sherriff, he had climbed aboard a dinghy designed for thirty people but calculated there were ninety six on board, all standing upright, one third of whom – thirty two – he estimated fell overboard on the journey across the Mediterranean and drowned.
What the students learnt from this first-hand experience of listening to these stories, was brought together into a report which was shared with Kate Green, Labour MP and Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Migration.
We all travelled to London and were shown via Westminster Hall to a room in the House of Lords. Kate Green, Lord Judd (one time Minister in the Overseas Development Ministry and Director of VSO and Oxfam) and Danny Kruger, MP for the Devizes constituency attended and were presented with some of the findings in the migration report that the students had produced. The students then questioned the politicians’ attitudes to international development and investment, as a means to dissuading people from leaving their countries of origin by involving themselves in business development in those countries. They also queried the treatment of migrants coming into the UK and ways in which they could be supported more on first arrival.
After one hour of debate, we proceeded from the committee room in the House of Lords to the Visitors’ Gallery in the House of Commons and for half an hour observed the voting on the Brexit bill.
For the young students it was a remarkable experience and one which will undoubtedly live on in their memories. This will be reinforced by letters that they will soon receive from Danny Kruger congratulating them on their presentation and pertinent questions.
It is significant that one of the group is planning to study international development at University while two have decided on politics undoubtedly influenced by Thriving Through Venture and what the year long programme has meant to them.