THE Government is to resettle 130 more refugee children from Europe, after admitting that it had previously miscalculated the number of places made available by local councils under the Dubs amendment. The total number coming to the UK under the scheme will now rise to 480.
Christian Aid’s senior UK political adviser, Simon Kirkland, said: “This is a small bit of welcome news, but it’s nowhere near enough to play our part in meeting the needs of people currently seeking refuge from war.
“The Government should heed calls from right across the political spectrum to reopen the vital Dubs scheme. This month, Christian Aid is marking 60 years of Christian Aid Week, which was set up to support European refugees following the Second World War. Once again, refugees in Europe, and displaced people around the world, are in need of help.”
The Immigration Act (2016), as amended by Lord Dubs, compels the Secretary of State to relocate a “specified number of unaccompanied refugee children from other countries in Europe” to the UK. It states that the Government is “under no obligation to transfer unaccompanied refugee children from Europe beyond the specified number to be determined following consultation with local authorities”.
The Government originally agreed on the resettlement of 3000 refugee children under the Dubs scheme, but this was reduced to 350 children, and closed this year, to the dismay of the Archbishop of Canterbury, among others (News, 9 February). The reduced figure included more than 200 children who had already been transferred from France.
But the Immigration Minister, Robert Goodwill, told the House of Commons last week that a further 130 places had been pledged by local councils in one region in the UK, but had not been counted, owing to an “administrative error”. The Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, had written to ministers in European Union member states to identify and transfer the additional children as soon as possible, he said.
It came as a report from the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Refugees this week criticised the Government for creating a costly “two-tier system” of refugee protection — either through asylum or resettlement — that had left hundreds of vulnerable people homeless and destitute, and which prevented integration.
The report, Refugees Welcome? The experience of new refugees in the UK, recommends the establishment of a Minister for Refugees, a cross-departmental National Refugee Integration Strategy, and a new “post-Brexit” immigration system.
More than 9800 refugees were resettled in the UK between 2012 and 2016, it says, including 5706 under the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme (2014-16). A further 50,000 people came to the UK under asylum.
Thangam Debbonaire MP, who chairs the APPG, said: “A refugee is a refugee however they were granted status. Most will want to return home when conflict is over, and, in the mean time, want to contribute to this country. These are often skilled professionals, and, by definition, they all have strength and determination to offer.
“But there are administrative flaws in the system which could be easily fixed. Creating a two-tier system for refugees, loading the dice against people who come here to build a new life, is not just the wrong thing to do but a costly missed opportunity for Britain.”