EXCL Theresa May urged to ‘rescue her legacy’ by keeping promises to refugee children

Posted On: 
20th June 2019

Theresa May has been urged to “rescue” her legacy as Prime Minister by making good on a promise to help vulnerable children consigned to "destitution and fear" in refugee camps across Europe.

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The Prime Minister is being urged to use her last days in office to pledge more help for child refugees.

A cross-party group of MPs led by former Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron has called on Mrs May to use her last days in Number 10 to “finally” fulfil a pledge to help children separated from their families find safety in Britain.

And they are pressing the outgoing Prime Minister to formally commit the UK to taking in 10,000 child refugees over the next decade.

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Under the so-called Dubs Amendment, ministers have already promised to take in 480 unaccompanied children - those with no adult to care for them - from refugee camps around Europe.

The pledge, named after former child refugee and Labour peer Lord Dubs, came amid pressure for the UK to play its part in tackling the contintent-wide migrant crisis made worse by the devastating war in Syria.

But the group of MPs - which includes figures from Labour, SNP and the DUP - is now pushing the Prime Minister to use her final weeks as PM to “urgently” ensure Britain sticks to the vow.

Mr Farron, now the Lib Dem communities spokesperson, told PoliticsHome that Mrs May had so far “failed to uphold the UK’s commitment to child refugees”.

He added: “It is shameful that they’ve taken just 220 children under the Dubs Amendment, which was originally meant to welcome 3,000.

“If Theresa May is to rescue any legacy at all she should use her last days in office to finally fulfil the promise under the Dubs Amendment.”

DESTITUTION AND FEAR’

As well as demanding action on the Dubs promise, the MPs are calling on Mrs May to pile pressure on her Tory successor by significantly ramping up wider schemes designed to resettle refugees from around the world.

Home Secretary Sajid Javid this week confirmed that the Government’s existing refugee resettlement programmes - including a Syrian programme set up by David Cameron in 2015 - would be rolled into one when the current system comes to an end in 2020.

The Conservative leadership contender indicated that at least 5,000 more refugees would be welcomed into the UK under the renewed push, giving them the “opportunity to build a new life”. 

But the cross-party group is calling on Mrs May to go further and formally pledge to take in 10,000 child refugees over the next decade. 

Mr Farron said: “The UK must not turn its back on those who’ve been forced to flee their homes and now live in destitution and fear.”

Supporters of the move say it would mean councils already signed up to the UK’s existing settlement programmes taking in just five extra children each per year.

Eleanor Harrison, who heads up the charity Safe Passage, appealed to Mrs May to revive the spirit of the 1930s Kindertransport programme, which rescued thousands of children - including Lord Dubs himself - from the clutches of the Nazis ahead of the Second World War.

“The Kindertransport rescue of 10,000 children from Nazi Europe is one of many examples when this country has stepped up and done its bit for those in need of sanctuary,” she told PoliticsHome.

“But today, that spirit of welcome seems to have been abandoned. In 2018, only 0.02% of the world’s displaced people were refugees in the UK.”

Ms Harrison added: “Right now in Europe, thousands of child refugees are surviving in camps and on the streets. In conflict zones, children’s lives are at constant risk.

“A commitment to welcome 10,000 over ten years would give these children lasting hope of reaching safety and a meaningful alternative to risking their lives on lorries, dinghies and in the hands of traffickers.”

FULLY COMMITTED’

Labour MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle, one of the MPs backing a Parliamentary motion aiming to raise the issue on World Refugee Day, accused Mrs May of having “constantly dragged her heels when it comes to helping the most vulnerable”.

“It was her as Home Secretary who tried to stop the Dubs scheme for refugee children - and even when it passed, we see her Government dragging its heels on the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme,” he told PoliticsHome.

But a Home Office spokesperson said: “Since 2016, the UK has resettled more refugees from outside Europe than any other EU state and we will continue to do all we can to help the world’s most vulnerable.

“From 2020, our new global resettlement scheme will help thousands more people fleeing conflict and persecution, including children, to build a new life in the UK.

“We remain fully committed to relocating 480 children under section 67 and are determined to deliver on that.”

MPs putting their name to the cross-party bid include Lib Dem leadership hopeful Jo Swinson, and Labour MPs Paul Farrelly, Virendra Sharma and Helen Hayes. 

The SNP’s Chris Law, David Linden, Gavin Newlands and Stephen Gethins are also on board, while DUP MP Jim Shannon and independent Lady Hermon have also signed the call.