UK Politics

UK 'not keeping pledge to take child refugees' - Lord Dubs

Child at refugee camp Image copyright AFP/Getty
Image caption The issue is set to return to the Commons next week

Child refugees promised sanctuary in the UK are still risking their lives hiding in lorries, a Labour peer who escaped Nazi Germany has warned.

Lord Dubs, who came to Britain on the Kindertransport programme for Jewish children, said no-one had arrived in the UK under a scheme pledged in May.

It said lone child refugees registered in France, Italy or Greece before 20 March could be resettled in the UK.

The Home Office said work on the scheme was under way.

But Lord Dubs said that, as far as he knew, no children had been brought to the UK under the promised terms.

"Now that the referendum is over it is time they got on with it," he said.

'Children in danger'

"No one has come through on this scheme yet. The only people who have come through I know are young people I met in Calais who then made it to Britain on the back of a lorry," he said.

"These children are in danger. All the evidence is that some of them are in danger of being lured into crime and prostitution."

Lord Dubs also warned that refugee children were coming to a Britain that was "less tolerant" than it was even a few months ago: "It is absolutely shocking. It is very depressing, we have sunk in terms of the way we treat other people."

Image copyright Getty Images

Mr Cameron's U-turn on the issue of accepting unaccompanied child refugees came after mounting political pressure, including from Tory backbenches.

The government agreed in January to take some lone child refugees directly from North Africa and Middle East.

But it had rejected calls to accept 3,000 children who had made it to Europe because it did not want to encourage others to make the "lethal" journey.

'No action'

Lord Dubs, together with charities Citizens UK and Unicef UK, is backing an amendment to the Children and Social Work Bill, being debated in Parliament on Monday, to press minsters for greater assurances.

Charities have warned that councils giving a home to refugee children lack the assurances of long term government funding they need.

Bishop of Durham Paul Butler, a spokesman for Citizens UK, said: "Although we rejoiced when the government agreed to step up and resettle unaccompanied child refugees from Europe, we are disappointed that their words are not being put into action.

"This generous offer of sanctuary to unaccompanied children must not be allowed to fail due to bureaucracy and cuts."

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Media captionIn May David Cameron promised to accept more lone child migrants

Lily Caprani, of Unicef UK, said child refugees continued to "remain stuck for months in wretched camps from Greece to France".

She called on the government to "take immediate action to speed up these procedures".

The Home Office said it was committed to bringing vulnerable refugee children from Europe to the UK, as underpinned in the Immigration Act 2016.

A spokesman said the government was consulting with local authorities to confirm available capacity and to make sure "appropriate support systems" were in place.

UK officials were also talking to the UN's refugee agency, the UNHCR, and the Italian, Greek and French governments to speed up the process.

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