Lord Dubs condemns 'shabby' government decision to scrap child refugee programme
Lord Dubs tonight hit out at the Government's "shabby" decision to end the child refugee programme he helped to inspire.
In a surprise statement, the Home Office confirmed this afternoon that 350 children would be allowed into the UK before the scheme is closed.
Government sources suggested last year that as many as 3,000 of the stricken youngsters could be accepted by Britain.
David Cameron announced last May that the Government was accepting an amendment to the Immigration Act by former Labour MP Lord Dubs calling for the UK to take in unaccompanied youngsters left homeless by the Syrian civil war.
More than 200 have already arrived in the UK from camps in France since then, according to Home Office minister Robert Goodwill.
His statement added that a further 150 will be welcomed to Britain in “due course” - close to the maximum local authorities said they could cope with. But after that, the scheme will close.
Speaking tonight, Lord Dubs said: "I think it’s a shabby approach by the Government. They have arbitrarily said there will be 350 children in total, that’s 200 already and 150 more and that’s the end of it. There’s nothing in the amendment and nothing in the Immigration Act that allows them to do that.
"Local authorities I’ve spoken to are willing to take more children, all I’m asking is the Government should not close the scheme down, approach local authorities again and see how many more places are on offer from Local Authorities and then bring children over.
"I think we owe it to the children to at least take some of them to the safety and wellbeing of this country."
Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott said the Government was "shutting the door on the most vulnerable".
She said: "The Government must end these efforts to prevent refugees arriving here. This is not who we are.”
Labour MP Yvette Cooper, chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee, said it was "completely wrong" to close the programme.
She added: “At a time when President Trump is trying to close down refugee programmes altogether, the British Government should not be closing the very programme designed to help the most vulnerable refugees of all."
Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron accused the Government of doing “the bare minimum, helping only a tiny number of youngsters and appearing to end the programme while thousands still suffer”.
He added: "Today is a betrayal of these vulnerable children and a betrayal of British values."
A spokesman for the Prime Minister said: "We've got a long, proud history of giving sanctuary to those who need it most.
“In the year ending September 2016, we granted asylum to more than 8,000 children. Last year, we took 900 unaccompanied children from Europe and 750 of those were from the camps.
“The WMS makes clear that we are dependent on the provisions that local authorities can provide and the feedback we've had suggests we can deal with 350 children.”
The spokesperson added: "We will re-settle vulnerable children where we have the provision to provide that care for them.
“The issue is identifying those children - some of them have been in harrowing situations - and providing care services for them where we can."
Kirsty McNeil, Save the Children Director of Policy said: "The government's subsequent commitment to protecting these children was a proud victory of compassion in 2016. But the solution must match the scale of the need. Today's announcement to transfer only 150 children, out of the tens of thousands currently languishing in overwhelmed camps in Greece and Italy, is far short of the UK's ability and moral obligation. Helping 1% of the children in urgent need is the bare minimum, and defies the spirit of Global Britain."