Survivors disappointed at Downing Street snub over genocide amendment meeting

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Survivors disappointed at Downing Street snub over genocide amendment meeting

Dorit Oliver Wolff and Ruth Barnett asked to meet Boris Johnson a month ago over the treatment of Uyghur Muslims but have not received an invitation

Ruth Barnett and Dorit Oliver Wolff
Ruth Barnett and Dorit Oliver Wolff

Two Holocaust survivors whose call to meet Boris Johnson over the genocide amendment attracted 50,000 backers, have expressed disappointment that Downing Street has so far failed to reach out.

Pressure is mounting on the government to do more to crack down on China amid accusations of forced labour and sterilisation targeting the minority Uyghur Muslim community. Up to one million Uyghurs are thought to have been detained in re-education camps.

The government is currently engaged in a battle with the House of Lords which has amended the trade bill on three occasions as it seeks to give judges the power to rule on whether a genocide is taking place. Peers wanted to see such a ruling limiting the ability of governments to trade with any offending nation.

After the government blocked a Commons vote on the latest Lords amendment in February. Dorit Oliver Wolff and Ruth Barnett, who fled the Nazis on the kindertransport, wrote directly to the prime minister. Number 10 thanked the pair for their letter in a statement to Jewish News, and said he would be responding – but they are yet to hear from him a month on.

Barnett said: “I am very disappointed that he hasn’t been willing to engage, as we have positive suggestions. The overriding important thing is that genocide gets named so that we can start to call out the countries where it is happening.”

Uyghur Muslims held in ‘re-education’ camps in north west China

Wolff added: “If Boris Johnson would know about it, I couldn’t possible imagine that he would not want to grant me and Ruth a meeting. I don’t believe it possible, having spent time with him on a train journey from Eastbourne to London, he was sympathetic, compassionate and caring about our experiences in the Holocaust. If people have blocked the message from getting to him, they should be ashamed because this is a matter of lives. We are all human.”

The issue is due to return to the Commons for the third time today. But if an amendment from Bob Neill succeeds, there will again be no vote on the genocide amendment. The government – which has announced fines for UK companies that fail to show efforts to ensure their supply chains are free of forced labour – says the final say over trade matters should rest with politicians rather than judges.

Ahead of the vote, the two Holocaust survivors are joined by survivors of Rwanda and Bosnia, Eric Murangwa and Safet Vukalic to make a last-ditch appeal to vote down the Neill amendment. “We either continue business as usual or we don’t. Either genocide is a crime and a matter for judges or we don’t.

“Trade is not worth the price of a people. If you vote for the genocide amendment you can contribute to making ‘never again’ a reality. If you vote for the Neill amendment you will keep the same again a reality.”

More than 100 leaders of students societies nationwide have also written to the foreign secretary – who has denounced actions against the Uyghurs as amounting to “barbarism” – urging him to endorse the genocide amendment.

Eve Navias, Co-chair of Students for Uyghurs said: “For too long, the government has ignored and overlooked young people in policymaking. Today’s youth, and university students in particular, are incredibly passionate about combatting genocide. Students from across the political spectrum have come out strongly in favour of the genocide amendment. In voting against the amendment, the government is not only letting down Uyghurs and other persecuted peoples but also British youth, who want our country to be world leaders in upholding international human rights.”

In a letter to one of the leading rebel Tories Nus Ghani MP following a campaign with Jewish News, Johnson said: “Please be assured that the situation in Xinjiang remains a priority for this government and we will continue to take action in response to the gross and egregious human rights violations taking place in the region.”

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