Refugee crisis: David Cameron could consider concession over accepting children from Europe

No 10 spokeswoman says ministers will 'look again' at the Immigration Bill

Caroline Mortimer
Wednesday 04 May 2016 09:20 BST
A child refugee near the Greek-Macedonian border
A child refugee near the Greek-Macedonian border (AFP/Getty Images)

David Cameron is considering whether to make further concessions on allowing more child refugees to come to Britain, officials have said.

After suffering a defeat in the House of Lords last week a spokeswoman for the Prime Minister has said ministers were planning to “look again” at the immigration bill.

Labour Lord, Alfred Dubs, proposed an amendment to the Immigration Bill to accept up to 3,000 child refugees from camps within the EU. It was defeated by a Commons vote last week with a majority of just 18 MPs.

When it returned to the House of Lords it was rejected and sent back to the lower chamber.

Now up to 30 Tory MPs and eight members of the Democratic Unionist party have indicated they intend to switch sides and back a compromise plan put forward by Lord Dubs when it comes back to the House of Commons on 9 May, the Guardian reports.

The amendment would still propose accepting child refugees who are already in Europe, but does not specify an exact number.

The spokeswoman told the newspaper: “We would expect that amendment to come back to the Commons next week. Therefore there’s a bit of time for the Government to be thinking about that and how we make progress on the Immigration Bill.

David Cameron has been criticised by leading children's charities for refusing to accept child refugees from Europe (PA)

“As on any Bill, it is quite sensible that you consider how you take it through the House and how you get it onto the statute book”.

Former Communities and Local Government Secretary, Sir Eric Pickles, is one of the most senior Conservative backbenchers to suggest he may change his mind.

He said he previously gave the Government “the benefit of the doubt” and voted with them because he thought they were sincere in their worry that taking children from within the EU would encourage more people to make the dangerous journey across the Mediterranean sea.

But he has now indicated he has changed his mind saying: “I am not in the Government, so I will say I myself am not entirely convinced by their argument, I just gave them the benefit of the doubt in this vote.”

The amnesty would undermine a recent agreement between the EU and Turkey where the country agreed to take back refugees arriving in Greece in exchange for resettling people in Europe from their own camps on a “one in one out” basis.

The EU will also give aid to Turkey and allow its citizens visa free travel within the 28 member states so long as it meets 72 pre-conditions regarding the standard of its camps and treatment of asylum seekers.

But human rights campaigners have questioned the legality of the move and have argued Turkey is not a safe place to return to.

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