UK Government ends child migrant scheme

Date: 20th February 2017
Category: Refugee and asylum seeking children

The UK Government has announced plans to slow, and eventually halt, the acceptance of child refugees in Britain.

This is an abandonment of the so-called Dubs amendment, which committed Britain to accepting up to 3,000 child refugees.

The Dubs amendment, designed by the Labour peer and former child refugee Lord Dubs, aimed to help some of the estimated 90,000 unaccompanied migrant children across Europe.

The Immigration Minister Robert Goodwill has said that the UK has committed to relocating 350 young people through section 67 of the Immigration Act - often known as the Dubs Amendment - with over 200 children having arrived already.

When the amendment was being debated last year, the Government said the number of children who would be transferred would be decided following discussions with local authorities.

The Minister said that the criteria which will determine how the remaining children are selected will be published 'in due course'. This announcement does not include children who are seeking to join family members in the UK.

Refugee Council Policy Manager Judith Dennis said: "The Government's job is far from done; the global refugee crisis hasn't gone away and if anything it's getting worse.

"The UK needs to step up rather than step back and ensure that we pull our weight by offering refuge to more vulnerable people and enabling more refugees to reunite with their families here."

The UK's four children's commissioners have written to the government asking for a rethink of a decision to end a scheme bringing in lone child refugees.

The commissioners wrote that the number of children who had come in under the scheme so far "falls significantly short of expectations" and, 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".

The letter, signed by Anne Longfield, Children's Commissioner for England, Tam Baillie, Children's Commissioner for Scotland, Sally Holland, Children's Commissioner for Wales and Koulla Yiasouma, Children's Commissioner for Northern Ireland - called on Home Secretary Amber 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".

"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," it reads.

The letter has received praise from Labour MP Yvette Cooper, who chairs the Home Affairs Select Committee.

She said: "This is a very serious response from the children's commissioners. They make clear that far from avoiding traffickers, by ditching the Dubs scheme, the government risks pushing more children back into the arms of smuggler gangs.

"The government should listen to this call from the commissioners whose very purpose is to protect the welfare of vulnerable children and reopen the Dubs scheme now."

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