Children's organisations speak out as High Court hearing takes place on UK government decision to stop taking in child refugees from Europe
A partnership of children’s charities have condemned the UK government’s decision to stop allowing child refugees in Europe into Britain.
Children in Scotland and its partners Children in Northern Ireland, Children in Wales and Children England called on the decision announced by immigration minister Robert Goodwill that a scheme to take in child refugees will end at the end of March having only accepted 350 children should be reversed with immediate effect.
Last year an ammendent to the Immigration Act allowing for the UK to accept unaccompanied child refugees currently in Europe was accepted.
Known as the Dubs amendment, named after Lord Dubs who introduced it, the public was led to believe up to 3,000 unaccompanied minors would be granted entry.
The reversal has left charities and civil society furious. Charity, Help Refugees lodged a high court challenge, which will take place later today (Friday), to the government’s role in helping refugees.
The legal challenge asserts that the government has failed to lawfully calculate the number of available places for unaccompanied children because it failed to properly consult with local authorities as the statute required it to do.
Rosa Curling, the human rights solicitor who represents Help Refugees, said: “The consultation process by which the Home Office has calculated this low number was fundamentally flawed.
“There was no real consultation with many local authorities. Our legal challenge holds the government to account on this critical issue of how many unaccompanied refugee children will be relocated to the UK and supported here.”
Responding to the decision, Lord Dubs said it would be “shameful” if the UK closed the route.
A spokesperson for Children in Scotland, said it and its sister organisations were united in their “condemnation” of the government’s decision to “renege on its commitment”.
“Less than a year has passed since the decision was taken — with overwhelming public backing — to support vulnerable unaccompanied children through this scheme,” the spokesperson said.
“This was an expression of solidarity and a contribution to their protection.
“We believe the claim that the decision is being taken due to concerns about attracting human traffickers is utterly disingenuous. We share Lord Alfred Dubs’ view that the UK Government is ‘in breach of its own commitments’.
“The arbitrary figure of 350 children to be supported by the scheme does not approach the level of commitment implicit in the spirit of the Dubs amendment. It fails to accurately reflect what we in the UK can and should offer to uphold the rights of children in crisis.”
Children in Scotland said it appreciated there was significant budgetary pressures on local authorities, but asked that the grossly inequitable conditions being experienced by children across Europe is taken into account.
“As the fifth largest economy in the world we should ask ourselves: is 350 really the best that we can do when there are 90,000 lone child refugees and asylum seekers in Europe?" it added.
“We urge the UK government to welcome a fair and proportionate share of those who are fleeing persecution and war.
“In solidarity with refugees and asylum seekers, especially those who are children and young people, we urge the UK government to demonstrate compassion and morality.
“It must reverse this decision to close or cap the Dubs scheme with immediate effect.”