Responding to yesterday's developments Stella Creasy MP writes in The Guardian:
"Less than a year ago, parliament passed the Dubs amendment with support across all political parties. Proudly we agreed that Britain should take its fair share of unaccompanied child refugees. Throughout the debates the number repeatedly mentioned was 3,000 – a fraction of the estimated 95,000 unaccompanied children in Europe seeking asylum. Now the government has announced they will cap this at 350 – shamefully claiming this is in the spirit of the amendment. Little wonder that Lord Dubs – himself a beneficiary of the Kindertransport programme in the 1930s to help children fleeing persecution from Nazi Germany – is rightly furious at such a betrayal.
Little wonder that on Wednesday the government attempted to hide the closure of this scheme by slipping out the details on the day of the Brexit vote in a written statement. Forced to come to parliament to explain herself by Yvette Cooper’s urgent question today, the home secretary angrily stated that the French government had asked for this scheme to end because it created a “pull” factor.
Yet having met with the French authorities this seems far-fetched at best. They were both adamant about the shared responsibility of each nation to these children and the need for Britain to take at least 1,000 as a result. So, too, it does nothing to explain why this change of policy is in the best interests of the thousands of children stuck in camps in Italy and Greece. Not a single child has come from these countries under this scheme to the UK, but many are eligible and all are at risk in their current locations.
Stopping the Dubs scheme will not end the stream of unaccompanied child refugees arriving in Europe from conflict-stricken nations. It will simply stop them travelling legally – and crucially safely – to a haven. The perceived pull factor of any such scheme is no match for the brutal push factors of the rape, war and political persecution that have made so many of them leave the comfort of home for the danger of the sea.
Perhaps those of us who have fought for the rights of these children should not be surprised at this move by Theresa May’s government. Already they had been trying to restrict the Dubs scheme by nationality, limiting it to those who are Syrian or Sudanese, and thus abandoning the many Afghan, Eritrean, Oromo or Ethiopian children stuck in Europe alone. So, too, when we attempted to amend legislation to ensure the UN convention on the rights of the child covered how these children were treated by Britain, the government voted it down.
Yet the despair many feel today isn’t just about the premature abolition of this scheme, it’s at our continued failure to treat these children with the decency and humanity we would wish for our own. In October last year, many of these orphaned children went willingly with officials to French reception centres in good faith, having been told they would be assessed for transfer to the UK.
Now they find out there is no hope of any such safety. Many are losing faith all together of any kind of future. Some have attempted suicide, others are back again jumping lorries in the dark to try to get to Britain. A damning indictment of the approach taken, charities estimate that 50 children a day are now arriving back in Calais, sleeping in the mud and vulnerable to the people traffickers and exploitation gangs which see them as an easy target.
Only a week ago Westminster echoed with condemnation for Donald Trump’s ban on Syrian refugees. Now our own government has announced it is closing the door to vulnerable children on our doorstep fleeing persecution, making a mockery of the claim to be a global Britain.
From Kindertransport to the Dubs amendments, protecting and caring for child refugees has been and must remain a British value. If the government doesn’t rethink this cruel and heartless decision, some of the most helpless children in the world will pay a heavy price for indifference. And if we don’t speak up about it, it won’t just be our international reputation at stake but our national pride too."