Over the last few days, I have received a large amount of emails and letters regarding the announcement over plans to transfer 350 unaccompanied asylum-seeking children to the UK affected by the Syrian crisis under the Dubs Scheme. Understandably, many have expressed concerns that Britain is not doing enough to take in more vulnerable young children affected by the crisis.
I want to emphasise that the scheme has not closed, as reported by some. The UK Government was obliged by the Immigration Act to put a specific number on how many children we would take based on a consultation with local authorities about their capacity. We’re clear that behind these numbers are children and it’s vital that we get the balance right between enabling eligible children to come to the UK as quickly as possible and ensuring local authorities have capacity to host them and provide them with the support and care they will need.
In order to address some concerns raised by constituents, I wanted to highlight a few key points made by the Home Secretary Amber Rudd when explaining the reasons behind the decision to MPs in Parliament last week;
- Her French counterparts have made it very clear that “they do not want us to continue to accept children under the Dubs amendment indefinitely. They specify that that acts as a draw… It acts as a pull. It encourages the people traffickers.”
- She continued that “The Government have always been clear that we do not want to incentivise perilous journeys to Europe, particularly by the most vulnerable children. That is why children must have arrived in Europe before 20 March 2016 to be eligible under section 67 of the Immigration Act. The section 67 obligation was accepted on the basis that the measure would not act as a pull factor for children to travel to Europe and that it would be based on local authority capacity”.
- With regards to the children we have agreed to accept under the Dubs Scheme, she pointed out that “these are children who need looking after over a period. When we accept them here, it is not job done; it is about making sure that we work with local authorities and that we have the right safeguarding in place. That is why we engage with local authorities—why we make sure they have sufficient funds, which we have increased, to look after those young people.” She said funds for local authorities taking these vulnerable children had been increased by between 20 and 28%.
- She also addressed concerns MPs raised about the children now in the care of the French authorities, emphasising that “I do speak to my European counterparts about the best way to help the refugees who are now coming to Europe in such numbers. The French are very clear that they are processing the children who have come out of the Calais camp, and they want to continue to do that, but one of the things that stops the children operating with the French authorities is the hope of being taken into the Dubs scheme and coming to the UK. The authorities are clear with us that if they are to manage those children and do the best thing for them… making it clear that the scheme is not going to be open indefinitely will provide the best outcome for them.”
It is important that we listen to the advice given to us by our European counterparts on how best to work with them to help children caught up in the ongoing regional crisis arising from conflict in Syria. Britain is certainly not turning its back on vulnerable children, but where our well-intentioned actions risk incentivising dangerous journeys across Europe to get here or increasing the likelihood of people trafficking, it is important to look carefully at our options to choose the most effective action.
The Government’s overall strategy is to support international efforts to find a comprehensive and sustainable solution to the refugee crisis; we must deal with its root causes, as well as respond to the consequences. That is why the UK has been at the forefront of the response to the events in Syria and the region, pledging over £2.3 billion in aid - our largest ever humanitarian response to a single crisis. We are also one of the few EU countries to meet our commitment to spending 0.7 per cent of Gross National Income on overseas aid.
I hope this clarifies the Government’s position on this and answers some of the questions that many constituents had about the announcement.
The link to her full comments can be found here: