UK Government approach to child refugees not backed by evidence, warns Home Affairs Select Committee
Around 3,000 children were expected to come to the UK under the scheme, but Home Secretary Amber Rudd recently announced the cap would be set far lower
Amber Rudd - credit: Parliament TV
There is a “big gap” between the UK Government’s views on ending the Dubs scheme and the evidence provided by local authorities and NGOs, according to a new Home Affairs Committee report.
Around 3,000 children were originally expected to come to the UK under the scheme, but Home Secretary Amber Rudd recently announced that the cap would be set far lower because councils did not have enough capacity.
However the Committee urged the Government to urgently consult the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner on the impact of any changes to the Dubs scheme on trafficking and exploitation of children and also to check and publish the capacity of councils to provide further places for unaccompanied children next year.
Witnesses also rejected Government claims that the Dubs scheme acted as a “pull” factor for people traffickers.
But a Home Office spokesperson insisted children were best helped by allowing them to apply for asylum in refugee camps in and around Syria.
The Committee reported that, despite UK Government claims to the contrary, local councils had confirmed that more capacity was available and that if further funding was provided up to a further 4,000 places could be made available.
Chair of the committee Yvette Cooper said: “There is a big gap between what the government has said, and the evidence we heard from local councils and from organisations like UNICEF who are working with child refugees.
“This is too important to get wrong when children’s lives and futures are at risk.”
“Ministers have said that they need to end the Dubs scheme in order to prevent trafficking, but Save the Children and others have said this will make child trafficking, abuse and exploitation worse.”
She added: “The government has also said local councils can only take 350 children under the Dubs scheme. But councils told us that with funding in place they could take many more.
“That’s why we want ministers to publish all the council offers of help they have had, and to find out how many more children they could take in the next financial year.”
Organisations including UNICEF and Save the Children said that closing the Dubs scheme would increase the risk of child trafficking and exploitation. Meanwhile the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner said safe, legal routes were an important part of protecting children.
SNP MP Stuart McDonald said: “It is time for the Prime Minister to finally wake up and realise that the huge public and parliamentary pressure to accept our fair share of unaccompanied child refugees will not just go away.
“The UK government must immediately halt its shameful decision to end transfers under the Dubs scheme – these are some of the most vulnerable children in the world and it is our duty to protect them.
“SNP MPs will not allow Tory ministers to put aside our values and shirk our responsibilities – this is about basic decency.
“The UK government’s reluctance to act throughout the refugee crisis has been a cause for embarrassment – we certainly are not willing to let them roll back on the relatively weak commitments that they have made.
“As cross-party pressure grows we will continue to urge the UK government to maintain the Dubs scheme and step up its resettlement efforts.”
A Home Office spokesperson said: “This government provided 8,000 vulnerable children with refuge or other forms of leave this year and by the end of this parliament we will have resettled 23,000 people from Syria, the Middle East and North Africa – half of whom will be children.”
“But it’s not ‘job done’ when these children get to the UK – they require ongoing support and protection. That is why we welcome all offers of extra places from local authorities.
“These places can be used to support the unaccompanied children already being cared for in the UK and those who continue to arrive and claim asylum.”
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