Ministers urged not to scrap Dubs refugee scheme for lone kids
All four children’s commissioners in the UK have urged ministers to rethink the decision to scrap a scheme admitting lone child refugees to Britain.
In a letter to the Government the commissioners for England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland also lamented that the scheme has fallen “significantly short of expectations” so far.
Ministers announced earlier this month that the so-called Dubs amendment scheme would be scrapped after bringing in only 350 unaccompanied child refugees.
Campaigners hoped 3,000 who had already made the perilous journey to Europe from war-torn Syria would be allowed in under the plan.
But the Government argues the scheme acts as a pull for people traffickers and local authorities do not have enough spaces to house lone children.
The decision to scrap it angered the Archbishop of Canterbury, the architect of the scheme Lord Dubs and a number of Tory MPs, among others.
Commissioners Anne Longfield, Tam Baillie, Sally Holland and Koulla Yiasouma - who work in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland respectively - called on Home Secretary Amber Rudd to rethink.
They urged her to “consider carefully the plight of the many thousands of lone child refugees in Europe who are currently at risk of exploitation and trafficking".
And they added: "We urge the Government to act humanely and responsibly, and to maintain a positive commitment to the Dubs scheme within a comprehensive strategy to safeguard unaccompanied child refugees within Europe.”
Labour MP Yvette Cooper, who chairs the Home Affairs Select Committee, said: "This is a very serious response from the children's commissioners.
“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.
"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."
But a Government spokesperson said resettling children under the Dubs amendment was “just one way we are helping”.
"We have also committed to resettle up to 3,000 vulnerable children and family members from the Middle East and North Africa region and 20,000 Syrians by the end of this Parliament," the spokesperson said.
They added: "We have a proud history of offering protection to those who need it and children will continue to arrive in the UK from around the world through our other resettlement schemes and asylum system."