The Government has admitted the UK will accept a further 130 child refugees through the Dubs scheme after miscounting how many places were available.
The programme controversially closed earlier in the year having accepted just 350 displaced youngsters, not thousands as was expected.
Minister for Immigration Robert Goodwill used a written statement to blame an “administrative error” for one region of the UK pledging 130 places “which were not accounted” for in its total.
The Home Office had claimed a shortage of places being made available by councils was the reason for the scheme closing.
Now campaigners are calling for the scheme to be re-opened as more local authorities have since come forward and pledged extra spaces.
Labour’s Yvette Cooper, on one of the most outspoken critics of the UK’s handling of the refugee crisis, called for the Government to check again with local authorities over availability to ensure “communities aren’t stopped from helping some of the most vulnerable kids in the world”.
This was the government statement published today:
Cooper, who sits on the Home Affairs Select Committee, said:
“It is welcome that an extra 130 children will be brought to safety in Britain under the Dubs scheme. But it beggars belief that these children weren’t helped earlier because of a basic admin error.
“This shows a shameful failure by the Home Office to talk properly to local councils who were willing and able to help or to check they had counted the figures up right. This shows the Home Office simply hasn’t taken this seriously enough.”
She added the committee of MPs had heard from councils across the country who insisted they had places, saying:
“Surely on something as important as this, when children are at risk of trafficking and prostitution, they would have checked the numbers were right.
“This revelation now casts further doubt on the whole consultation process - how many more places could be missing?
“The Home Secretary should apologise for this mistake and urgently reopen the consultation, and the Dubs scheme further so councils and communities aren’t stopped from helping some of the most vulnerable kids in the world.”
The landmark Dubs Amendment was the Government pledge named after the Labour peer, Lord Alf Dubs, who campaigned for the UK to accept lone children. Dubs himself was rescued from Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia in 1939 and brought to the UK under the ‘Kindertransport’.
Alex Fraser, director of refugee support at the British Red Cross, said:
“This confirms what we have been saying all along – that we all can and should be doing more to step up to the task of providing unaccompanied refugee children with a safe place to live.”
Rabbi Janet Darley, who has been working with Citizens UK’s Safe Passage project, said:
“If 130 places can be missed due to an administrative error, and many more councils have since come forward and pledged extra spaces, this clearly demonstrates the need to re-consult with councils on capacity and re-open the ‘Dubs scheme’ so more children can in future benefit.”
The Dubs amendment committed the government to relocate vulnerable lone child refugees in France, Italy and Greece “as soon as possible” with charities expecting the figure could reach 3,000.
Unicef pointed out 30,000 children arrived in Greece and Italy last year and thousands of them were “alone and are highly vulnerable”.