UK government to abandon thousands of lone refugee children

UK government to abandon thousands of lone refugee children
The UK government has backtracked on promises to grant refuge to 3,000 unaccompanied children in Europe's migrant camps, now saying only 350 will be accepted.
3 min read
08 February, 2017
Thousands of lone children have been locked out of the UK with the decision [AFP]
A group of 150 unaccompanied children living in European camps will be given refuge in the UK - but they will be the last group to do so, after the British government backtracked on a promise to welcome thousands of lone minors to the country.

This brings the total to 350 refugee children to be given new homes in the UK, despite David Cameron, then prime minister, suggesting around 3,000 unaccompanied children in need of a safe future would be cared for under the Dubs amendment.

With 200 children already rehomed in the UK - mostly from the Jungle Camp in Calais - there are just 150 places available for the thousands of children, many of them orphans, living in makeshift refugee camps across Europe.

Human rights groups said children had already died from the cold this winter, while thousands more are at risk of hunger, disease and exploitation by adult criminals.

"Only 150 places remain for all children from the rest of Europe, including Greece where freezing conditions in refugee camps led to three deaths in one week this January," said Help Refugees.

The group said it would challenge the government decision in a court hearing on Friday, charging officials with failures in executing the Dubs amendment correctly.

"[Our challenge] asserts that the government has failed to lawfully calculate the number of available places for unaccompanied children because it failed to properly consult with local authorities as tge statute required it to do," the group added.

The government U-turn was announced just hours before a crucial vote in the House of Commons on the UK's depature from the EU.

Critics have accused Immigration Minister Robert Goodwill of attempting to "bury the news" with the timing.
"I can today announce, in accordance with section 67 of the immigration act, that the government will transfer the specified 350 children pursuant to that section, who reasonably meet the intention and spirit of the provision," the minister said.

"We will announce in due course the basis on which further children will be transferred from Europe to the UK under section 67 of the immigration act to the specific number."

He said the 200 children already brought to the UK met the criteria of section 67.

Goodwill said the UK should be "proud" of its efforts in providing homes for refugees, despite international organisations saying the number welcomed was far too low to have any meaningful impact on the wider humanitarian situation.

Millions of Syrian and Iraqi refugees are living in squalid camps or in the open air in Europe and Turkey, most fleeing fighting which spiked last year.