Children’s commissioners write to home secretary over end of Dubs scheme

Commissioners for Scotland, Wales, England and Northern Ireland write to Amber Rudd calling for government to do more to help child refugees.


Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Children’s commissioners write to home secretary over end of Dubs scheme” was written by Jessica Elgot and Rowena Mason, for The Guardian on Wednesday 15th February 2017 21.31 UTC

Children’s commissioners for all four UK nations have written to the home secretary, Amber Rudd, urging her to rethink the government’s plans to close the transfer of lone child refugees in Europe to the UK.

The commissioners, who are public appointees, said they wanted to “express deep concern” about the decision of the government to cease taking children without family connections to the UK.

Rudd told the House of Commons last week that local councils had said they only had sufficient resources to take 450 lone child refugees under the so-called Dubs Amendment to the Immigration Act, proposed by former Kindertransport refugee Lord Alf Dubs. Though the amendment made no mention of specific numbers, campaigners said they had expected the UK to take around 3,000 children.

The letter to Rudd, signed by Scotland’s Tam Baillie, Wales’ Sally Holland, Northern Ireland’s Koulla Yiasouma and England’s Anne Longfield said the government, should maintain a positive commitment to the Dubs scheme.

“The UK has a long history of providing protection and support to those most in need of it and we would urge you to consider carefully the plight of the many thousands of lone child refugees in Europe who are currently at risk of exploitation and trafficking,” the letter said.

The numbers of children taken so far from Europe “falls significantly short of expectations,” the commissioners said. “The UK should play a far greater role in both offering protection and security to lone child refugees in Europe and in resolving the crisis that children are facing in Europe, especially in Greece and Italy.”

Labour MP Yvette Cooper, chair of the home affairs select committee, said it was right for the commissioners to put pressure on the government for a rethink. “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,” she said. “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.”

The commissioners join many high-profile public figures in condemning the ending of the Dubs scheme, from Justin Welby, the archbishop of Canterbury, to Gary Lineker, the ex-footballer and broadcaster. Welby, the Church of England’s most senior cleric, said he was “saddened and shocked” by the scheme’s closure, while Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, called it “a clear dereliction of the UK’s moral and global duty”.

A group of Tory MPs has also vowed to stop their leader closing the scheme, with Heidi Allen, MP for South Cambridgeshire, saying they “will not let it go”. They are planning to urge the government to change its mind during a parliamentary debate on Thursday next week.

Earlier this week, Nicky Morgan, the Conservative former education secretary, warned that voters could rapidly become alienated from a party if they thought it was callous in its decision-making. “Britain has always been a global, outward-facing country as well as being compassionate to those who need our help most,” she wrote on the website ConservativeHome. “The Conservative party now needs to demonstrate that combination in our approach to issues such as the Dubs children.”

More than 200 celebrities, including Ralph Fiennes, Keira Knightley, Michael Morpurgo and the band Coldplay, have also written to Theresa May calling on the government not to close the scheme.

In an open letter addressed to the prime minister, the signatories describe the decision to admit no more than 350 children under the Dubs amendment as “truly shameful”.

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