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Lord Dubs says he ‘honestly’ doesn’t understand why Theresa May has scrapped the child refugee scheme

The former child refugee dismissed the Government’s arguments

Jon Stone
Political Correspondent
Tuesday 14 March 2017 13:55 GMT
Former child refugee Lord Dubs says he cannot understand the Government shutting down child refugee program

The former 1930s child refugee who convinced David Cameron to accept 3,000 unaccompanied child refugees has said he does not understand why Theresa May has scrapped the scheme.

Lord Dubs, who fled the Nazis as part of the Kindertransport scheme, dismissed the Government’s stated reasons for scrapping the scheme and said he had “honestly” no idea why the scheme had really been closed.

“I try and understand, when I disagree with the Government, and politically of course I’m bound to be in this position on a whole range of issues, why they’re doing what they’re doing,” he told the House of Commons International Development Select Committee.

“In this case I honestly don’t under why they’ve done it. We’re talking about very small numbers, we know that if we take children then fewer of them get trafficked – at the time when the Jungle was going the more they felt they could come legally the less they came on the back of a truck.

“I honestly do not understand in my heart of hearts why the Government has chosen to close it down on this way. They could have easily kept it going for a bit longer and taken a few more.”

The scheme was originally expected to take 3,000 unaccompanied child refuges from the continent but the Government announced at the start of the year that it would be closing after just 350.

Ministers have claimed that local councils do not have enough space to take child refugees, and that the so-called “Dubs Scheme” encourages people trafficking and acts a pull factor for refugees from conflicts in the Middle East to make the journey to Europe.

Lord Dubs however dismissed these arguments: “They said they wanted to stop the scheme because the scheme encouraged trafficking. To which I would say, emphatically not – when there are legal paths to safety the traffickers don’t get a way in. We know that traffickers do best when there’s no legal way in.”

He added that he had spoken to local councils about taking more refugees and that many had volunteered spaces.

“I think there’s a great misunderstanding on the part of the Home Office if they actually believe that,” he said.

“I’ve spoken to local authority leaders who say they’re open to taking more, they’re happy to take more, and indeed up and down the country.

“I’m not saying all local authorities can and they do have financial difficulties. But on both counts I think the Government are wrong.”

He added that it was unlikely that the scheme was causing people to make the journey to Europe as the legislation included a specific cut-off date and that new refugees would not be eligible for it.

Closing the scheme last month, the Home Secretary Amber Rudd said she was “proud” of the Government’s policy on child refugees.

“The Government has always been clear that we do not want to incentivise perilous journeys to Europe particularly by the most vulnerable children,” Ms Rudd said at the time.

“The section 67 obligation was accepted on the measure that it would not act as a pull factor to Europe. The Government has a clear strategy and we believe this is the right approach.”

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