In honour of his lifetime commitment to Humanism and good causes, the British Humanist Association (BHA) presented the 2016 Humanist of the Year award to Lord (Alf) Dubs at a ceremony in London on Saturday 26 November 2016.
‘Given his distinguished service in the All-Party Parliamentary Humanist Group, his tireless work on behalf of those with disabilities, and his heroic support of Syrian child refugees, I can think of no better recipient of this prize in 2016 than Lord Dubs,’ said Andrew Copson, BHA Chief Executive.
Lord Dubs, 84, was presented with the award at a special 120th anniversary gathering of the British Humanist Association at Conway Hall in London, attended by members, supporters, and patrons of the BHA.
Among Lord Dubs’ many achievements, his sponsorship of an amendment to the Immigration Act 2016 to offer unaccompanied refugee children safe passage to Britain amidst the European migrant crisis. His amendment, with some revisions, was eventually accepted by the Government after public opinion swung decisively in favour of supporting child refugees.
At the age of six, Lord Dubs was one of 669 Czech-resident, mainly Jewish, children saved from the Nazis by English stockbroker Nicholas Winton on the Kindertransport (Dubs’ father was Jewish). His father had fled to England the day the Nazis arrived in Czechoslovakia on 15 March 1939, and he met Alf when he arrived in London. His mother came to the UK later but his father died, leaving her with ‘no husband, no money, no family – nothing’.
Dubs learned how he had arrived in the UK when Nicholas Winton’s story was broadcast in 1988. He later met Winton in person and campaigned for him to be knighted, which he was.
In 1979, Lord Dubs was elected as an MP for Battersea South. From 1988 to 1995 he was director of the Refugee Council. He became a peer in 1994 and served as Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Northern Ireland Office from 1997-99 and as chair of Labour peers from 2000-05.
As well as a Patron of the British Humanist Association, Dubs has been a local councillor, chair of the Fabian Society, chair of Liberty, a trustee of Action Aid, and a trustee of the Immigration Advisory Service, along with various other roles in a number of other voluntary organisations.
Humanist of the Year award has been won in the past by Philip Pullman, Terry Pratchett, and Alice Roberts and Richard Dawkins, as well as human rights activists from around the world such as Gululai Ismail.
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