Government slammed as 'inhumane' for removing protections for child refugees in Brexit agreement
The Government has been slammed as “disgraceful” and “inhumane” after MPs voted to remove protections for child refugees from the EU withdrawal agreement.
After a clause in the Brexit bill was altered to take away the right for unaccompanied minors to be reunited with their family, Labour had tried to amend the legislation to add it back.
But on Wednesday afternoon it was blocked 348 votes to 252, prompting a backlash from opposition parties.
However the Prime Minister’s press secretary denied safeguards were being removed, saying: “Our policies on child refugees has not changed.”
Ahead of the debate the Labour leadership hopeful Sir Keir Starmer jointly wrote with Lord Dubs, who fled from the Nazis aged six and came to Britain as part of the Kindertransport scheme, to all Tory MPs calling on them to vote for their amendment.
They said: "Boris Johnson may have won a majority in Parliament, but he did not win the moral argument to absolve himself of responsibility to some of the most vulnerable people in the world.”
And they added: “You have the power to right this wrong. This is your test – and we would urge you to hold them to account over this disgraceful decision.”
During the debate the shadow Brexit minister Thangam Debbonaire criticised clause 37 of the withdrawal bill, which replaces the pledge to take in unaccompanied minors from war-torn areas with a watered-down vow for ministers to “make a statement” after the divorce with Brussels is complete.
She argued that changing it was an "astonishing breach of faith with some of the most vulnerable children in the world".
And Liberal Democrat MP Tim Farron said Tory MPs had “earned the labels” of “insular and inhumane” by voting against the cross-party amendment.
But the Brexit minister Robin Walker said: “This Government is fully committed both to the principle of family reunion and to supporting the most vulnerable children. Our policy has not changed.
“We will also continue to reunite children with their families under the Dublin Regulation during the implementation period.”
The PM’s press secretary also said: “We have a proud record of helping vulnerable children both through our asylum system and our resettlement schemes, granting protection to 41,000 unaccompanied minors since 2010.
“Protecting vulnerable children will remain our priority after Brexit, and our new clause reaffirms our commitment while clarifying the role of Parliament and government in the negotiations.”