Immigration Bill: MPs vote against child refugee amendment

An amendment to the Immigration bill compeling the Government to offer sanctuary in the UK to 3,000 unaccompanied child refugees from Europe was rejected 294 to 276

Alexandra Sims
Monday 25 April 2016 20:55
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Cries of “shame” erupted in the Commons following the vote
Cries of “shame” erupted in the Commons following the vote

MPs’ have voted against an attempt to compel the Government to offer sanctuary in the UK to 3,000 unaccompanied child refugees from Europe.

Labour peer Lord Dubs' amendment to the Immigration bill was rejected 294 to 276, giving a majority of 18, following a Commons debate on Monday.

The Government resisted defeat despite suggestions Tory rebels may defy their party and back Lord Dubs' proposal who was saved from the Nazis and brought to London on the Kindertransport programme.

He led a parliamentary campaign to take in youngsters from camps near Calais and elsewhere in Europe who, he says, are hugely vulnerable to exploitation, sexual violence and disease.

Ministers argued offering sanctuary to lone children who had already reached Europe may mean more youngsters could become subject to trafficking.

The suggestions were dubbed as “bogus” by Lib Dem leader Tim Farron, whose party, along with Labour and the SNP, backed the amendment.

Some Conservatives also raised concerns over the Government’s position, including Heidi Allen and backbencher Stephen Phillips who said “exceptional times call for exceptional measures".

Cries of “shame” erupted in the Commons following the vote and many have attacked the outcome.

In a statement the Liberal Democrats said: “In the past, Britain has consistently stood up for the for the best in human nature… tonight the Government has dishonored that legacy.

“The Government have closed their eyes to those in need.”

Former leader of the Green Party, Caroline Lucas, called the decision “shameful” over Twitter.

Ms Allen said she had abstained from the vote over Twitter, calling it “the hardest decision”. She said she had taken that course of action because the Government committed last week to taking in 3,000 more refugees, mostly children, from the Middle East and North Africa.

Immigration minister, James Brokenshire, claimed that taking in children from Europe could encourage them to put their lives at risk with people traffickers and on dangerous sea crossings.

Mr Brokenshire insisted child refugees should be safe in Europe and that the Government was helping countries ensure this.

He said: "It is about supporting those frontline member states, it is about supporting our other European partners, to stand by their responsibilities, because in essence Europe should be a safe space.

"We're not talking about a conflict zone and therefore we judge that the best way to make a difference and to help the greatest numbers of those in need is to support the majority of refugees to enable them to stay safely in their home region, which is why I make the points that I do, in respect of the aid and assistance."

The Bill will return to the Lords on Tuesday with a revised amendment that removes the reference to 3,000 refugees.

Instead Lord Dubs will ask the Government to resettle a "specified number" of lone child refugees to be determined in consultation with local authorities.

Tories Tania Mathias and Mr Phillips both called on the Government to take more action on child refugees.

Ms Mathias said: "I believe Lord Dubs' amendment is the right thing to do tonight to give those children a safe haven."

Mr Phillips said: "Those children are tonight in Calais, they're on the Greek-Macedonia border, they're at the Gare du Nord in Paris and Midi station in Brussels. They're sleeping rough in Berlin and Rome and Skopje and Vienna.

"Tonight they will sleep in fear and tomorrow they will wake to the hopelessness to which their position exposes them. But we can do something."

Additional reporting by Press Association

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