David Cameron 'shaming' Britain's reputation by rejecting Syrian refugee children, Yvette Cooper says

David Cameron claimed refugees were 'safe' despite thousands going missing 

Jon Stone
Wednesday 27 April 2016 15:14 BST
David Cameron attacked over refugee vote

David Cameron has been accused of putting Britain’s reputation to “shame” by refusing to take in unaccompanied Syrian child refugees who have travelled to Europe.

The Prime Minister claimed in the House of Commons today that such children were “safe” once they entered the EU – despite thousands having gone missing, sleeping on the streets, and reports of rampant trafficking and child prostitution.

Yvette Cooper, who leads a Labour Party taskforce responding to the Syrian refugee crisis, told the Prime Minister that he should “reconsider his position” based on the evidence.

“The Prime Minister has just suggested that child refugees alone in Europe are ‘safe’,” she told the Prime Minister.

“There are children’s homes full in Italy and Greece and over 1,000 children will sleep rough in Greece alone tonight – how are they safe? 10,000 children have disappeared alone in Europe, how are they safe.

“The agencies say that children are committing ‘survival sex’ they are being abused, subject to prostitution, and rape. It is not insulting other European countries to offer to help: they want us to help!

“So will he reconsider his position on Alf Dubs amendment before it comes back to the vote and stop with his attitude to lone child refugees putting this House and this country to shame.”

Ms Cooper received a rare round of applause from MPs on the opposition benches for her question to the Prime Minister.

Peers in the House of Lords led by former 1930s child refugee Lord Dubs have pressing the Government to accept Syrian child refugees who have travelled to Europe. The Lords launched a renewed push to admit the children Tory MPs voted down the first bid on Monday evening.

Mr Cameron however used Prime Minister’s Questions to attack the peers’ parallels between Syrian refugees and those fleeing Nazi Germany – arguing that they were “deeply wrong”.

Labour's refugee taskforce head Yvette Cooper questions David Cameron (Crown copyright)

“Those people who are in European countries are in safe European countries,” he said at PMQs.

“To compare somehow children or adults who are in France or Germany or Italy of Spain or Portugal or Greece I think is deeply wrong. We’ll continue without our approach.”

Following Mr Cameorn’s lead, Tory MPs began to jeer the SNP’s Angus Robertson for suggesting parallels with the 1930s in his question about refugees to the PM.

The PM went on to say that nobody could “accuse this country of walking on by in its response to the refugee crisis” and noted that Britain was one of the biggest donors of financial aid to refugee camps in the conflict zone.

Ministers have said they will take 3,000 unaccompanied children from refugee camps near the conflict zone instead. This comes on top if the 4,000 vulnerable refugees a year the UK has said it will take.

The UK’s contribution however pales in comparison to the number of refugees taken by similarly sized European countries.

Germany is expecting to take a million refugees this year, out of around four million projected by the European Commission to arrive on the continent during the same period.

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