The UK’s four children’s commissioners have written to the government asking for a rethink of a decision to end a scheme bringing in lone child refugees.
Campaigners hoped 3,000 children would come into the UK under the so-called Dubs amendment, but last week the home secretary said it would be 350. The amendment, designed by the Labour peer and former child refugee Lord Dubs, aimed to help some of the estimated 90,000 unaccompanied migrant children across Europe.
The commissioners wrote that the number of children who had come in under the scheme so far “falls significantly short of expectations” and, as a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, the UK should “play a far greater role”.
Signed by Anne Longfield, the commissioner for England, and Tam Baillie, Sally Holland and Koulla Yiasouma, her counterparts in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, the letter called on Home Secretary Amber Rudd to “consider carefully the plight of the many thousands of lone child refugees in Europe who are currently at risk of exploitation and trafficking.
“We urge the Government to act humanely and responsibly, and to maintain a positive commitment to the Dubs scheme within a comprehensive strategy to safeguard unaccompanied child refugees within Europe.”
Labour MP Yvette Cooper, who chairs the Home Affairs Select Committee said: “This is a very serious response [and] the government should listen to this call from the commissioners whose very purpose is to protect the welfare of vulnerable children and reopen the Dubs scheme now.”
Ms Rudd has defended the decision in the House of Commons, saying it had been made after France raised concerns that the amendment could be encouraging more children to make the perilous journey to Europe.
But critics,including the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev Justin Welby, and the head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, have called for a reversal of the decision. A legal challenge against ending the scheme is expected to reach the High Court in May.