The Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, has described his deep shock at the UK government reneging on its commitment to Parliament last year to take in 3,000 vulnerable children fleeing war zones, many of whom are disabled.
In a barely noticed move, the government of Theresa May last week decided to cap the numbers at 350, a fraction of the total pledged in April last year to Labour peer Alf Dubs. Religious leaders have united in deploring the move (see Guardian report).
Cardinal Nichols said today that in repealing the so-called Dubs Amendment, the Government is seen as “abandoning its statutory and moral duty to take effective action for the protection of vulnerable, unaccompanied child refugees.”
The cardinal called for this “truly shocking” decision to be reviewed at once by the Home Secretary, and the pledge honoured.
In a written ministerial statement last Wednesday, the immigration minister, Robert Goodwill, revealed that a government scheme to bring unaccompanied child refugees to the UK from Europe would in effect be wound up, with only 150 more due to be transferred. Around 200 lone refugee children have so far been brought to Britain under the scheme.
The total of 350 falls well short of the 3,000 that many MPs believed they were voting for when they passed the “Dubs amendment” to the Immigration Act last year.
A separate, accelerated arrangement to bring in unaccompanied refugee children who have family links in the UK under the Dublin convention will also be ended, the Home Office said.
In his statement, Cardinal Nichols added:
“The Home Office have stated that during 2016 over 900 unaccompanied children were brought to safety from Europe, including 750 from Calais. However, the need is evidently far greater and I am informed that there are a number of Local Authorities willing and resourced to take many more of these children into their care.”
“I urge the Government to look again at all available resources and to work with renewed vigour, internationally and at home, to support and enable programmes to assist these vulnerable children. Indeed, I encourage many who are expressing concern to take up the valuable Community Sponsorship Scheme established by the Government, whereby local communities are able to provide places of welcome and safety for refugees seeking shelter in this country.”
“Our Government is rightly proud of its initiatives against human trafficking, which are appreciated around the world. Yet to neglect these unaccompanied children is to leave them extremely vulnerable to human trafficking with all its terrible consequences. I ask the Home Secretary to review urgently the decision and to honour the original intention behind the Dubs Amendment.”