Debate teams from Jersey College for Girls (JCG) and Les Quennevais took to the stage on Wednesday 2nd December to debate the notion that ‘This house believes that Europe has a moral duty to allow Syrian refugees to seek asylum within its borders.’ BBC broadcast journalist, Olivia Le Poidevin, moderated the emotion fuelled debate. The winning team managed to convince almost all of the gathered audience to support the proposition for Jersey and its European neighbours to welcome refugees fleeing the civil war in Syria.  

Hawksford’s marketing manager Cherith Fothergill attended the debate, and was delighted with the level of enthusiasm displayed from both sides, commenting, ‘The students did a fantastic job in the debate. It was an extremely relevant and thought provoking subject, which was tackled with the maturity and expression it required. Their rhetoric and articulation were incredibly sophisticated and we were all very impressed with their arguments.’  

The team for the proposition argued that Europe has a moral duty to protect people who are being forced to flee Assad’s brutal regime. They told the audience that over 250,000 Syrians have been killed since the beginning of the civil war in 2011. Referencing Assad’s use of chemical weapons and other acts of terror, the team concluded that it would be morally wrong not to extend support to refugees risking their lives to flee the conflict. The team also used Jersey’s occupation history to illustrate the effects of war on a country, and noted examples of islanders seeking refuge in England and other areas of Europe during World War Two.  

The team against the proposition argued that the opening of Europe’s borders to Syrian refugees would put extra pressure on housing and public services. The team referenced the current strains on the NHS, homelessness and Europe’s ageing population, to highlight that there are problems that need addressing at home before the West can extend help to refugees. Discussing the tragic events in Paris last month, the team explained that Europe couldn’t risk the possibility of ISIS using the refugee crisis to smuggle terrorists into mainland Europe to carry out further acts of terror. They also noted the benefits that refugees would be entitled to, and questioned how fair this would be for Jersey passport holders, who wouldn’t receive the same assistance in the UK or Europe.  

Maxine Rawlins, chief executive at Hawksford, added, ‘Our aim is to get the students thinking ahead to ensure they’re always challenging, and hopefully inspiring them to become the devoted politicians of the future. Our positioning statement, thinking beyond tomorrow, is incredibly important to us as it underpins everything we do for our clients. Hopefully this debate will inspire the youngsters to follow this ethos and become more prepared for the challenges of tomorrow.’  

The debate teams were made up of students from JCG and Les Quennevais, aged 12 and 13. The teams were mixed to ensure students had the opportunity to work together, and more schools are being invited to take part in future debates.  

The Hawksford JCG Debate Series, which was launched at a Hawksford reception event at the House of Commons in October 2012, has been organised in order to encourage public speaking, the voicing of opinions and to create a bridge between today’s leaders and the leaders of tomorrow.