POLITICS

Additional 3,000 Child Refugees To Be Brought To The UK, But No Resurrection Of 'Kindertransport'

Labour suggests Government trying to "muddy the debate"

21/04/2016 12:27 | Updated 21 April 2016
Lefteris Pitarakis/AP

An additional 3,000 Middle Eastern refugees, mainly vulnerable children, will be resettled in the UK - but critics warned it will do nothing for thousands of displaced children already in Europe.

The Government announced today refugees will be taken from camps in the Middle East and North Africa, and several hundred will be brought to the UK in the next 12 months.

The remainder will come by 2020, and the resettling scheme will focus not only on unaccompanied children but also those at risk of child labour and child marriage.

But Labour said the Government was only acting because it will faces pressure after the House of Lords voted in support of a scheme to bring unaccompanied children who have already made their way to Europe to be included. 

The 3,000 refugees will be in addition to the 20,000 which the Government has already committed to help under the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme (VPRS).

Labour peer Lord Alf Dubs, who was saved from the Nazis under the Kindertransport project and brought to Britain in the late 1930s, questioned whether the Government was trying to "muddy the debate".

His successful Lords amendment to the Immigration Bill is to be debated by MPs on Monday.

Lord Dubs said: “While I welcome this proposal, it doesn’t deal sufficiently with the substance of my amendment and I will continue to press the government for more action when the Immigration Bill comes back to the floor of the Lords next week.

“You also have to wonder whether the use of the ‘3,000’ figure is a deliberate ploy to muddy the debate.”

Labour MP and former Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper said: “This is the same announcement as the Government made back in January and includes nothing new to help the thousands of child refugees alone in Europe who are at risk of trafficking, sexual exploitation and abuse.

"It doesn’t address the crisis within Europe and I hope MPs of all parties will back Alf Dubs amendment."

Lord Dubs argued that the Government should echo the Kindertransport scheme, which rescued Jewish children from the Nazis in the 1930s.

The Government opposed the plan, with David Cameron telling the Commons: “We do not support the Dubs amendment because, as I said previously, we think it is right to take additional children over and above the 20,000 refugees, but to take them from the region and to do so by working with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

“I think that the unfairness, if I might say that, of comparing child migrants in Europe with the Kindertransport is that countries such as France, Germany, Italy and Spain are safe countries, where anyone who claims asylum and has family in Britain is able to come to Britain.

“I do not believe that it is a fair comparison.”

Save the Children estimate there are 26,000 lone children across Europe, 400 of which are living the Calais ‘jungle’.

Home Office Minister James Brokenshire said today: “We have always been clear that the vast majority of vulnerable children are better off remaining in host countries in the region so they can be reunited with surviving family members. However, there are exceptional circumstances in which it is in a child’s best interests to be resettled in the UK.

He added: "This new scheme compliments our ongoing work within Europe to assist vulnerable migrant children. This includes the £10m Refugee Children Fund to identify and support vulnerable children and strengthen child protection and family reunification systems."

Pressure was put on the Government to do more to help unaccompanied children after Labour peer Lord Dubs led a Lords motion calling for the UK to house youngsters already in Europe.

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