UK Government to take in 3,000 unaccompanied child refugees from Europe

Half of the world's refugees are children

Scottish Refugee Council welcomes last night’s challenge by the Lords to the UK Government to let unaccompanied child refugees into the UK from Europe.

Yesterday, the House of Lords defeated the UK Government after peers voted to adopt an opposition amendment to the Immigration Bill to accept 3,000 separated children who are alone in Europe.

Arguing for the amendment, Lord Dubs said it would protect children from exploitation, people trafficking and abuse.

The peer – who arrived in the UK as a refugee on the Kindertransport, which helped children escape from the Nazis during World War Two – said the UK needed to show the same compassion.

"I would like other children who are in a desperate situation to be offered safety in this country and be given the same opportunities that I had," he told peers.

Campaigners, including Save the Children, have been calling for the UK Government to accept 3,000 children from Europe into the UK.

Gary Christie, Head of Policy and Communications at Scottish Refugee Council, said: “This amendment will safeguard the lives of 3,000 vulnerable children separated from their families and arriving in Europe from the Syrian conflict as well as from Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Vietnam. 

“In 2014 there were more than 24,000 unaccompanied children seeking asylum in the EU – nearly double that of the previous year.

“We have a duty to look after these children. This amendment is a welcome step to force the UK Government to share responsibility for the care and protection of these children, who are alone and vulnerable.”

The amendment will require UK Ministers to allow the children to come to the UK as soon as possible after the bill becomes law, and states that the relocation of the 3,000 children will be in addition to the resettlement of children under the Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme.

Home Office Minister Lord Bates said the amendment would not target those most in need and ministers may now seek to overturn the defeat when the bill returns to the Commons.

He said the UK Government was concentrating its efforts on helping Syrian refugees before they reach Europe and insisted no other country was doing more than the UK.

Lord Bates said 51% of the 1,000 Syrian refugees resettled in the UK - as part of the UK Government's pledge to take in 20,000 by 2020 - had been children.

He also said there was a shortage of foster carers and that it was hard to place refugee families with local authorities.

But the government's argument was not supported by the majority of the House, which voted by a margin of 102 to accept the amendment.

This is the fourth welcome defeat for the UK Government in the Lords on the Immigration Bill following opposition amendments allowing asylum seekers the right to work, and placing limits on indefinite immigration detention.

Scottish Refugee Council has criticised the bill, which will force asylum seeking children and their families into destitution. In addition, the bill provides no detail or scrutiny of many of the legislative provisions as they relate to Scotland.