Lords defeat UK Government on child refugees vote
It is the fourth time the UK Government’s Brexit bill has been defeated in the Lords
The House of Lords has voted to protect the rights of refugee children to be reunited with their families in the UK after Brexit.
Peers supported an amendment to the EU (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill that would mean that unaccompanied children could continue to come to the UK to join relatives after the UK leaves the European Union.
A previous version of the bill had included a commitment to keep this arrangement as the UK negotiates its future relationship with Europe, but the government removed this guarantee when it introduced the bill to parliament in January.
It is the fourth time the UK Government’s so-called Brexit bill has been defeated in the Lords, after votes on Monday on the issues of EU citizens, EU Court of Justice rulings and court independence.
The amendment on child refugees was tabled by Lord Dubs, who was responsible for the original amendment to the withdrawal bill agreed by Theresa May’s government in 2018.
It was supported by 300 votes in favour to 220 against.
The bill will now go back to the House of Commons where the government will attempt to reverse this change.
With a majority of 80 MPs, the government is expected to remove the amendment again.
The government has said it is “intent” on protecting family reunifications as part of its future agreement with the EU, but did not want it to be included in the withdrawal bill.
Lord Dubs arrived in the UK as a six-year-old refugee fleeing the Nazis in Czechoslovakia in 1939.
He said: “This is fantastic news. I am enormously grateful to the Lords and of course to the public who have been so supportive of my amendment and of the moral argument for providing safe routes for children to be reunited with their families here.
“It’s now be the turn of the Commons to show what they’re made of.
“For the sake of the children stranded in Calais and Greece who simply want to reach the safety of their families, I hope they will also honour our humanitarian traditions and get behind the amendment.”
The Scottish Refugee Council said: “We’re grateful to Lord Dubs for continuing to speak up for separated children. Without him, the UK government would have walked away from commitments to protect children’s rights to reunite with family.”
Safe Passage, a campaigning group who has pressed the government to support unaccompanied child refugees said: “The Prime Minister should now show compassion and agree to the Lords amendment.
“Many of the children we support have lost their parents but they have grandparents, siblings, aunts and uncles living in the UK and ready to care for them.
“It is illogical that these children be denied safe passage to the UK, left with no other choice but to consider smuggling just to reach their loved ones, or to grow up alone without the care of their family many surviving in camps and car parks across Europe.”
Read our interview with Lord Dubs here.