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Child refugees U-turn: Children's Commissioners express 'deep concern' over end to Dubs scheme

Amber Rudd urged to reconsider ending scheme that protects vulnerable youngsters

Caroline Mortimer
Wednesday 15 February 2017 23:49 GMT
Sub-Saharan refugees sit on the deck of the Golfo Azzurro after being rescued in the Mediterranean Sea on 27 January
Sub-Saharan refugees sit on the deck of the Golfo Azzurro after being rescued in the Mediterranean Sea on 27 January (AP)

The UK’s four children’s commissioners have written to Home Secretary Amber Rudd to express their “deep concern” over the decision to end a scheme to bring lone child refugees to the country.

The Home Office unexpectedly announced the scheme would end after 350 children were offered sanctuary in the UK under the so-called Dubs amendment – far lower than the figure originally promised.

Last year, it was widely thought that Government would take 3,000 lone children from European refugee camps after Lord Alfred Dubs forced the Government to accept an amendment on the matter when the Immigration Act passed through Parliament.

The commissioners of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have told of their “deep concern” about the decision and urged Ms Rudd to "consider carefully the plight of the many thousands of lone child refugees in Europe who are currently at risk of exploitation and trafficking".

They said: "The Government made a welcome commitment through the scheme to taking some of the most vulnerable lone child refugees who are rootless in Europe.

"The number that have been brought to the UK under the scheme thus far falls significantly short of expectations and we consider that, as a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, the UK should play a far greater role in both offering protection and security to lone child refugees in Europe and in resolving the crisis that children are facing in Europe, especially in Greece and Italy.

"We urge the Government to act humanely and responsibly, and to maintain a positive commitment to the Dubs scheme within a comprehensive strategy to safeguard unaccompanied child refugees within Europe."

The letter is signed by Anne Longfield, Children's Commissioner for England, and Tam Baillie, Sally Holland and Koulla Yiasouma - her counterparts in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland respectively.

It follows mounting anger over the premature end to the scheme and the claim that they were shelving the plan because local authorities could not accommodate the children – something which has been rejected by several councils who said they were happy to accept more.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev Justin Welby, and the head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, Cardinal Vincent Nichols have also called for the Government to reverse its decision.

Lord Dubs, who was himself a child refugee having arrived in Britain as part of the Kindertransport just before the Second World War, has vowed to fight against the closure of the scheme.

A legal challenge is expected to reach the High Court in May.

A Government spokesperson said: " We are committed to supporting vulnerable children who are caught up in conflict and danger. Thanks to the goodwill of the British public and local authorities in the last year alone, we have provided refuge or other forms of leave to more than 8,000 children.

"Our commitment to resettle 350 unaccompanied children from Europe is just one way we are helping. We have also committed to resettle up to 3,000 vulnerable children and family members from the MENA region and 20,000 Syrians by the end of this Parliament. We have a proud history of offering protection to those who need it and children will continue to arrive in the UK from around the world through our other resettlement schemes and asylum system.

"The Government has significantly increased the funding it provides to local authorities who look after unaccompanied asylum-seeking children. It's vital that we get the balance right between enabling eligible children to come to the UK as quickly as possible and ensuring local authorities have capacity to host them and provide them with the support they will need”.

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