On 8th February, after just four months in operation, the Government announced it would be closing the ‘Dubs’ scheme for child refugees by the end of the financial year, limiting the scheme to just 350 children transferred.
Having campaigned alongside Lord Dubs for the original amendment and led the identification of the first eligible children in the Calais ‘jungle’, like many Safe Passage supporters, volunteers and community leaders we were dismayed by the decision.
On news of the closure, Safe Passage initiated a mass action across the country, supporting refugee welcome groups and communities across the country to write to their Councils and ask them to take a stand against the closure of the scheme. Safe Passage coordinated a letter from London council leaders pledging their support, and by the weekend over 50,000 people had signed our public petition to keep the scheme open. The petition was delivered to Downing Street by Lord Dubs, community leaders and leaders of London councils.
Over the following days, Barbara Winton, daughter of Sir Nicholas Winton, wrote to the Prime Minister asking her to re-think and follow the example of her father who helped 669 of the 10,000 children rescued from Nazi persecution through the Kindertransport. Ken Loach spoke out at the BAFTAs, and over 200 celebrities and public figures signed an open letter against closing the door to child refugees from Europe.
Councils across the country revealed they had spaces available for Dubs children. Birmingham City Council announced they had 72 places available whilst Bristol Citizens secured a pledge of 10 places from the Mayor of Bristol, pledges Safe Passage continue to collate as evidence that Britain can do more.
As pressure continued to build, Safe Passage worked with Conservative MPs Heidi Allen and David Burrowes to bring an amendment to the Children and Social Work Bill to force the Government to continue to consult with Local Authorities on their capacity to support additional vulnerable children from Europe under the Dubs scheme.
That amendment was voted on by MPs on Tuesday 7th March and was narrowly lost, with three Conservative MPs voting for the amendment and a number more abstaining.
Whilst we are bitterly disappointed that Parliament didn’t grab this opportunity to keep the scheme open, we will continue to build consensus and campaign for safe and legal routes to protection for child refugees as the only alternative to traffickers and dangerous journeys.
Safe Passage held two special mass campaign calls to discuss the next steps following the Dubs vote, and how we can continue to fight for safe and legal routes and deliver lasting change locally and nationally.