UK

Child refugees risk being killed, warns Justin Welby

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Media captionJustin Welby: "To leave the whole weight of this on Italy and Greece is deeply unjust"

Child refugees will be at risk of being exploited, trafficked and even killed following the government's decision to end the "Dubs amendment" scheme, the Archbishop of Canterbury has warned.

His criticism comes as campaigners challenge ministers over the number of vulnerable children accepted by the UK at a High Court hearing.

They say ministers have not worked with local councils to find enough places.

Ministers argue the arrangement is "a pull" for children and traffickers.

The Most Reverend Justin Welby previously said he was "shocked and saddened" at the government's announcement that only 350 children would be accepted into the UK under the Dubs scheme.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4's World at One, he added: "Parents do not casually wake up one day and say the easiest thing to do is send our children off by themselves.

"This is the symptom of a situation more extreme than anything any of us can imagine and at some point the vulnerability of these children must be recognised - the alternative is they will be trafficked.

"It's not going to stop them being trafficked, and they will end up in brothels, they will end up in places they will be exploited, ill-treated, manipulated and very often finally killed."

The archbishop said there was not a "simple approach" to the refugee crisis but "to leave the whole weight on Italy and Greece is deeply unjust".

On Wednesday the government ended the Dubs amendment scheme, designed by the Labour peer and former child refugee, Lord Dubs.

The amendment, which was attached to the Immigration Act last year, required the Home Office to allow some of the most vulnerable unaccompanied children stranded in Europe into the UK.

However, refugee groups and charities have previously accused the government of dragging its feet on the issue.

The legal action by the charity Help Refugees, begun before the government's announcement on Wednesday, argues that ministers have failed to work hard enough to find sufficient places for the children.

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Media captionAmber Rudd said she was "proud" of the UK's approach to child migration

Campaigners say the consultation process by which the Home Secretary Amber Rudd decided only 350 would be accepted was "fundamentally flawed".

At a preliminary hearing in London on Friday, Mr Justice Holman said he was "determined" the case should move forward quickly and a provisional date for a full hearing was set for May.

'Do right thing'

Meanwhile, the daughter of the man called "Britain's Schindler" has criticised the ending of the Dubs scheme.

Barbara Winton, daughter of Sir Nicholas Winton - who helped save hundreds of children from the Nazis in World War Two - has called on the prime minister to reinstate the Dubs amendment.

In a letter to Theresa May, she said her father had said the UK had "a responsibility to offer sanctuary to those fleeing persecution".

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Media captionDaughter of "Britain's Schindler" says the PM should "help as many children as possible" on Radio 4's Today

Speaking to BBC Radio 4's Today programme, she said she wanted to "remind" the prime minister of the words Mrs May had used at a memorial to Sir Nicholas, that she hoped his life would "encourage us to do the right thing".

Ms Winton said children in migrant camps in Europe were "suffering really difficult situations" and were alone.

"I would say that rather than honouring what my father did 80 years ago by just talking about that, the best way to honour him is to do what he would do now and that is help as many children as possible," she added.

Ministers say 350 children will have arrived under the scheme by the time it ends in March, but have highlighted fears that it encourages people traffickers.

Lord Dubs and his supporters have suggested the UK could help 3,000 of the most vulnerable children.

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Media captionYvette Cooper said children were being pushed back into the arms of people traffickers

On Thursday, church leaders, charities, MPs and peers also condemned the decision to close the scheme.

Lord Dubs said: "I believe, in arbitrarily closing down the scheme without any good reason for doing so, the government is in breach of its own commitments."

Home Secretary Amber Rudd defended the approach to the Dubs scheme - saying UK and French authorities feared it had provided opportunities for people traffickers.

Speaking in the Commons, she said: "I am clear that when working with my French counterparts they do not want us to indefinitely continue to accept children under the Dubs amendment because they specify, and I agree with them, that it acts as a draw.

"It acts as a pull. It encourages the people traffickers."

The Home Office has insisted it is not giving up on vulnerable children and youngsters will continue to arrive from around the world through other resettlement schemes and the asylum system.

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