Refugee campaigners will present their case against the government in the Court of Appeal today, after just 250 unaccompanied child refugees have been given sanctuary in the UK.
The Help Refugees charity claimed that the process by which the government agreed to take in just 480 lone child refugees was “fundamentally flawed” and “shambolic”.
The campaigners lost their high court challenge in November, but in January they were granted an appeal.
The legal challenge has lasted over two years. During that time, the government has failed to fill nearly half the places it had promised to provide to unaccompanied refugee minors living in camps or homeless in France, Italy and Greece.
The Dubs amendment, passed in May 2016, required the government to act “as soon as possible” to relocate and support unaccompanied refugee children. It was named after Lord Alfred Dubs, who escaped the Nazis as a child on the Kindertransport.
He proposed an amendment to immigration legislation in 2016, which would have required the government to bring 3,000 unaccompanied refugee children to the UK. That figure was later dropped from the amendment.
In order to determine the number of children each council has the capacity to help, the government was required to consult with local authorities.
Help Refugees said the process the Home Office took to carry out the consultation was “seriously defective” after it emerged many local authorities were not properly consulted and had the capacity to take more children.
After the disputed consultation, the government announced that the number of children to be relocated under the Dubs scheme was to be fixed at 350.
The government later accepted that 130 places offered by one English region had been ‘missed’ and the number was revised to 480 in April 2017.
In February 2017, the government announced it was winding up the scheme despite not fulfilling its commitment, which sparked outrage.
Josie Naughton, chief executive and co-founder of Help Refugees, told HuffPost UK: “There is nobody more vulnerable in society than an unaccompanied refugee child in another country.
“The values we hold so dear and that we see as so British such as compassion and humanity, and we feel that standing up for the children is standing up for compassion and humanity.”
She said the ministers and MPs she has met to discuss the scheme have been “supportive and positive” but it has not “translated into action”.
Naughton said that while the government has been “dragging their heels”, children have been losing their lives or going missing.
“These kids cannot wait. It is life or death,” she said.
On deciding to take the government to court, she said: “We spoke to so many local authorities about the consolation and so decided to look into it and we found it to be so unfair it was in fact illegal.”
Rosa Curling, a human rights solicitor from Leigh Day, who is acting on behalf of Help Refugees, said: “This is the single most important piece of legislation by which the UK has tried to help children caught up in the refugee crisis.
“Refugee children, living alone, in appalling conditions, are some of the most vulnerable people in Europe.
“A careful consultation, which did not miss or underestimate UK local authority capacity to support those children, was essential. It has yet to take place.”
The Home Office has been approached for a comment.