Boris Johnson accused of 'abandoning refugee children' by removing protections in Brexit bill

Posted On: 
20th December 2019

The Prime Minister has been criticised for scrapping protections for child refugees in his new Withdrawal Agreement Bill.

Under EU law, child refugees can join their families in the UK

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Speaking in Parliament, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said he was “appalled” the obligation had been removed in the Government's revised Brexit legislation.

But a spokesperson for the PM said the policy on child refugees “has not changed” and insisted it was “committed” to ensuring they could be reunited with their families.

Mr Corbyn said: "I want to make it absolutely clear how appalled I am to see the government remove the protections in this Bill for unaccompanied children seeking asylum.

"Throughout the last Parliament and for his whole life my good friend Lord Dubs has worked tirelessly to ensure children affected by the worst aspects of global injustice are given sanctuary in this country.

"Now this government, in its first week in office has ripped up those hard won commitments."

"Shame on this Government for abandoning children in this way."


Labour peer Lord Dubs, who has long campaigned for the obligation on child refugees to be included in Brexit legislation, called the move a “retrograde step”.

“It’s deeply depressing and deeply disappointing. We’re talking about children and young people who had some hope of a decent life with their relatives,” he told The Independent:

“We know there are at least several hundreds of children in these conditions. It’s mean-spirited and nasty. I will do all I can to challenge it. I think it’s absolutely wrong in principle, and what a terrible start for a new government.”

Meanwhile, refugee charity Safe Passage, which has long worked with Lord Dubs, accused the PM of causing "panic among refugee families".

Its chief executive Beth Gardiner-Smith said: "For the Government to take the first opportunity it has to water down vital protections for unaccompanied child refugees is truly shocking.

"For the Government to seek to remove these protections now risks causing panic amongst refugee families currently separated in Europe with potentially tragic consequences."

But the PM's spokesperson hit back, saying: "The government’s policy on child refugees has not changed and we will continue to do all we can to enable children to claim asylum and be reunited with their families. 

“Indeed the legislation published today reaffirms that commitment.”