‘Change of heart’ allows resettlement of vulnerable children
UK set to welcome child refugees
Unaccompanied asylum-seeking children will be resettled in the UK from Greece, Italy and France, in an initiative announced this week following discussions between the government and Save the Children.
The commitment builds on last month’s announcement that up to 3,000 vulnerable children and family members will be resettled direct from the Middle East and North Africa.
And it adds to the resettlement of 20,000 people direct from Syrian refugee communities, which has been under way since last year.
The government has always adopted a twin-track approach to dealing with the migrant crisis: helping the most vulnerable while not encouraging new perilous crossings to Europe.
Calls to accept thousands of children, who had made it to Europe, were initially rejected last month as MPs worried it encouraged others to make potentially ‘lethal’ journeys to the continent.
Now, by restricting resettlement to children registered before the EU migration agreement with Turkey came into force on 20th March, the twin-track approach will be able to continue.
The retrospective nature of the scheme will avoid creating a perverse incentive for families to entrust their children to people traffickers.
Additionally, it will mean that the UK can focus on the most vulnerable children already in Europe without encouraging more to make the journey.
The government will work closely with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to deliver this scheme, as well as non-governmental organisations (NGOs) like Save the Children. It will be separate to any EU-administered resettlement schemes.
Those at risk of trafficking or exploitation will be prioritised for resettlement. And existing family reunion routes will be accelerated.
Announcing the move in Parliament on Wednesday 4th May, Prime Minister David Cameron said: “No country has done more than Britain when it comes to help for Syrian refugees.
“We are going to do more for children who were already registered in Europe before the EU-Turkey deal. But we must stick to the principle that we shouldn’t be encouraging people to make that perilous journey.
“That’s been the cornerstone of our policy and that should remain the case.”
The government is not putting a fixed number on arrivals, but will instead work with local authorities across the UK to determine how many children will be resettled.
The initiative responds to the revised amendment to the Immigration Bill put forward by Lord Dubs, which proposes that the government consults with local authorities before setting out a plan for resettling children from Europe to the UK.
The government will accept the revised amendment from Lord Dubs when the Immigration Bill returns to the House of Commons next week.
Tanya Steele, Chief Executive, Save the Children praised the announcement.
She said: “The UK government has today matched the great leadership they have shown in providing aid and support to Syrian refugees in the region by reaching out a hand to children already on European shores.
“This announcement echoes Britain’s proud history of offering safety at times of great crisis and we want to thank the members of parliament who have led the way in championing this cause, as well as the British public who have opened their hearts to refugee children.”