UK to provide protection to 3,000 child refugees at risk

little girl  RWS Apppeal

Britain will welcome another 3,000 refugees under a new resettlement scheme, the UK Government has announced.

The majority of those arriving will be children, with some accompanied by their families or carers.

The announcement comes days before the Immigration Bill is due to be discussed again in the House of Commons. MPs will debate a number of amendments to the Bill where the Government was defeated by the Lords.  One of these, led by Lord Dubs, contains provision to bring 3,000 separated children from Europe to the UK.

Scottish Refugee Council welcomed the move but said it fails to satisfy calls for the UK to give refuge to youngsters who are stranded in Europe.

The programme, billed as the "largest programme in the world" for children from the Middle East and North Africa, is in addition to the 20,000 Syrians that the UK Government has already committed to resettling from the region surrounding the war-torn country by 2020.

Under the new scheme, several hundreds of individuals will be resettled over the next year, with up to 3,000 being given refuge over the lifetime of the UK Parliament.

The initiative will not only target unaccompanied children but will be extended to vulnerable children at risk – such as those threatened with child labour, marriage and other forms of abuse or exploitation.

It will be open to all at-risk groups and nationalities within the Middle East and North Africa region, the Home Office said. The scheme will be reviewed after two years.

However, the UK Government remains under pressure to offer sanctuary to thousands of unaccompanied child refugees stranded alone in Europe.

Graham O’Neill, Scottish Refugee Council Policy Officer, said: "We hope that a principle of refugee child protection has been established today by the UK Government.

"This principle is that lone child refugees, from wherever they have fled and wherever there are tonight – Syria, North Africa or in Europe – should be protected because of their distinctive vulnerability as children alone at the mercy of exploiters.

"The UK Government has the perfect opportunity next week to demonstrate this is a genuine principle of refugee child protection by leaving untouched the amendment from Lord Dubs allowing stranded children from Europe to come to the UK.

"These children in Europe are as vulnerable as those displaced from Syria and equally in need of safety. They shouldn't be prevented safe passage to protection in the UK just because of where they sleep in fear tonight."