CAMPAIGNERS seeking to overturn a government cap on the number of unaccompanied child refugees allowed into the UK have lost their case in the High Court.
The group Help Refugees argued that the cap of 480 child refugees was “fundamentally flawed”.
The Dubs Amendment, proposed by the Labour peer and former child refugee Lord Dubs last year, was a scheme set up to take in unaccompanied child refugees from areas such as the Jungle camp in Calais. Under the scheme, it was expected that the UK would take in about 3000 children and teenagers. But the Home Office announced in April this year that it was capping the number of children it would take under the scheme at just 480 (News, 5 May).
The legal challenge focused on whether adequate consultation had been carried out with local authorities to determine how many child refugees could be housed.
The High Court ruled that the Government’s case was sound, but Help for Refugees has said that it will appeal the ruling.
The charity reports that just 200 of the 480 children the Home Office promised to resettled have been let into the UK in the past 18 months.
“We should protect unaccompanied child refugees, not abandon them,” it said in a statement. “If we don’t act now, vulnerable unaccompanied children will once again be forced to face the freezing temperatures of a European winter from the floors of flimsy tents.
“At least four children lost their lives last year at our border in Calais before the amendment was implemented, some waiting to be with their families in the UK. It is heartbreaking and we cannot let this happen again.”
The Government published its safeguarding strategy on unaccompanied asylum seeking and refugee children just hours before the court ruling. The strategy includes additional funding to provide specialist training for 1000 foster carers looking after unaccompanied migrant children, and new research on the effectiveness of the current support offered to unaccompanied children.
The strategy received a cautious welcome from charities. A policy adviser at the Children’s Society, Ilona Pinter, said that she remained concerned about the focus on supported lodgings for asylum-seeking children, which did not offer refugee children the “specialist protection” they needed. The Government had still not delivered on its promise to review legal aid for lone children, including those who had been trafficked or abandoned in the UK, she said.