Foreign Affairs

I believe that the UK has a critical role on the world stage promoting co-operation between nations on issues of global importance, such as the climate emergency and opposing authoritarianism. I am opposed to isolationist policies and believe that the UK must do more to support diplomatic resolutions and to block arms sales to repressive regimes.  Above all, I believe that ethics and human rights should be at the heart of our foreign policy.

Across the world recent elections have seen the elevation of dangerous populist leaders, none more prominent than US President Donald Trump. These leaders have consistently exploited the economic concerns of working people to fuel anti-immigrant and racist rhetoric. I believe the UK must play a role in challenging these figures and calling out their dangerous language. It is shameful that the Prime Minister is more interested in flattering Donald Trump than meaningfully engaging with our European neighbours.

I was proud to join the Women’s March, following Donald Trump’s inauguration, and have joined protests on each of his visits to the UK. I signed Early Day Motion 2309 opposing the state visit of Donald Trump and condemned his virulent misogyny, racism and xenophobia. I have also made representations to the Foreign Office calling on the UK Government to oppose the policies of right wing governments on the climate emergency and use the international standing of the UK to challenge politicians like Donald Trump, Jair Bolsonaro and Victor Orban whose values are the opposite of those we hold dear.

Helen with other Labour MPs at the Women's March in January 2017

The past few years have seen increasing tensions and repression of human rights in China.

In Hong Kong, the Chinese Communist Party has introduced a shocking new security law which will diminish democratic freedoms in Hong Kong. This reneges on the 1984 joint Sino-British Declaration and the 'one country, two-systems' doctrine of governance. There is extensive evidence of human rights abuses against pro-democracy protestors and fears that this will become more common under the new security law.

Whilst I welcome the Government’s commitment to granting anyone from Hong Kong with British National Overseas status limited leave to remain in the UK, this will not help the majority of people in Hong Kong, it is clear that further action is needed by the British government in cooperation with international partners to press the Chinese government to ensure the continued democratic governance of Hong Kong under the 'one country, two systems' doctrine and freedom from oppression for all Hong Kong residents.

In Xinjiang, reports have documented the horrific treatment of the Uyghur Muslim community. This includes detainment in re-education camps, undermining the Uyghur people’s religious beliefs, and the forced sterilisation of Uyghur women. These reports are deeply disturbing, and I am clear that the Government must act with international partners to increase the pressure on China to allow international human rights observers into the region.

I have written to the Foreign Secretary on several occasions to urge increased action to protect human rights in Hong Kong and Xinjiang. The Government must adopt a more strategic approach to China based on an ethical approach to foreign policy which prioritises upholding and protecting human rights.

The situation in Syria is a tragedy in which more than 500,000 people have lost their lives, millions more have been displaced, and the physical fabric of a beautiful nation has been devastated. The repeated use of both chemical and conventional weapons by President Assad against his own people is utterly abhorrent.

In 2015, shortly following my election as MP for Dulwich and West Norwood, I voted against the Government’s motion to join coalition forces and undertake airstrikes in Syria.

I was concerned when Theresa May committed UK forces to military action in 2018 without the consent of Parliament and public debate. The Government must urgently establish an approach, working with international partners, to ensure humanitarian aid can be delivered to besieged areas of Syria; to work together with other members of the international community to hold the Russian government to account for their support for the Assad regime; and to vigorously pursue the Astana peace process.

In the absence of a coherent peace strategy in Syria and in so many other parts of the world, it is imperative that the UK Government steps up efforts to support and resettle refugees fleeing the conflict. I have consistently called on the Government to fulfil its commitments under the Dubs scheme and to expand support for refugee resettlement in the UK, including support for community sponsorship.

You can read more about my work supporting refugees and asylum seekers here

I am regularly contacted by constituents concerned about the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine. The tragic loss of life and large numbers of Palestinians who have been injured is very concerning, as is the humanitarian situation in Gaza and the terrible suffering that many Palestinian people are experiencing. The launching of rockets from Palestine into Israel is also completely unacceptable. The blockade of Gaza undermines basic human rights and economic prospects, as well as the availability of essential services. I believe that these restrictions should be lifted and I hope the Government will urge the Israeli authorities to go much further in easing them. I know that several organisations have documented extensive human rights abuses committed against Palestinian civilians.

I have written to the Foreign Secretary on several occasions to raise my concerns about the ongoing conflict and treatment of Palestinians. I remain committed to a two-state solution between Israel and Palestine with a safe and secure Israel living in peace alongside a viable state of Palestine and an end to the senseless cycle of violence. Violence does not further the cause of peace and there can be no justification for violence on either side of this conflict. I hope to visit Palestine with a delegation of other MPs later this year and I hope this trip will be helpful in continuing to raise my concerns in Parliament about the treatment of Palestinians.

Before I was an MP, I campaigned against the unnecessary military occupation of Iraq. The war cost the lives of countless numbers of both civilians and British military personnel. It was a fundamental mistake of the then Government to follow America’s lead based on insubstantial evidence and without the support of the UN or the wider European Union.

I believe this conflict posed fundamental questions for the UKs relationship with America which the current administration appears to have failed to learn.