8 February 2017

Government closure of “Dubs” transfer scheme for refugee children met with dismay

Lord Dubs and key charities have responded with dismay to the announcement today that the Government will end the “Dubs” scheme for transferring vulnerable refugee children to Britain.

In a Written Ministerial Statement published today the government indicated that a further 150 children will be transferred from Europe leaving a final total of 400 children to receive protection before the programme is shut down by the end of this financial year.

The government claim that a limit on local authority spaces is preventing them taking more children despite their estimations being based on a consultation conducted 9 months ago. The legislation makes no mention of an ‘end-date’ to the scheme but only calls for consultation with local authorities.

Lord Dubs and Safe Passage have called for government to re-consult with local authorities and ensure they are led by an assessment of need, rather than rush to cut off a vital lifeline to refugee children. Communities and councils across the country have been indicating more can be done and the government should be facilitating this rather than standing in the way of a country willing to help.

The original campaign for the ‘Dubs’ amendment called for Britain to help 3,000 of the close to 90,000 unaccompanied children who had arrived in Europe in 2015. This amounted to some 7 children per local authority. The final figure of 400 children is less than 1 child per local authority.

It is expected that today’s announcement will be met with a slew of legal challenges and parliamentary opposition given the amendment’s substantial public and parliamentary support last May.

Responding to the news that the Government plan to end the ‘Dubs’ scheme for unaccompanied refugee children Lord Alf Dubs said:

“Britain has a proud history of welcoming refugees. At a time when Donald Trump is banning refugees from America, it would be shameful if the UK followed suit by closing down this route to sanctuary for unaccompanied children just months after it was opened.

“During the Kindertransport Sir Nicky Winton rescued 669 children from Nazi persecution virtually singlehandedly. I was one of those lucky ones. It would be a terrible betrayal of his legacy if as a country we were unable to do more than this to help a new generation of child refugees.

“I urge the Prime Minister to show leadership by continuing and building on this programme, not shutting the door to some of the most vulnerable refugee children.”

Rabbi Janet Darley, spokesperson for Safe Passage said:

“Our grandparents set us the example when they rescued 10,000 child refugees from Nazi persecution through the Kindertransport. Today’s announcement falls shamefully short.

We know councils across the country who say that more can and should be done to help child refugees and that the numbers the government have based their decision on are threadbare and now nine months out of date. To make matters worse we know the criteria used to identify children as eligible under Dubs were unjustifiably narrow. Do we really want to be joining Donald Trump in slamming the door on vulnerable refugee children?

“The Safe Passage teams in Greece, Italy, and France will be dealing with the fallout of this terrible decision – a reality which will once again see the most vulnerable children left with a bleak choice between train tracks on the one hand and people traffickers on the other.”