Unaccompanied child refugees will no longer secure safe passage to the UK

Home Office Still Claims There Are Safe Legal Routes, but Turns Its Back on Child Refugees

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The long-suffering Dubs Amendment pioneered by Lord Dubs will no longer provide a legal route for unaccompanied child refugees to be relocated to the UK.

The government have repeatedly assured campaigners and MP’s that despite not renewing the Dubs Amendment, the rights of refugee children would be protected post-Brexit. The Government had previously stated it was seeking a new arrangement on the issue.

The Immigration Act or EU Withdrawal Bill passed into law on November 11th, confirming the end of free movement, without the Dubs amendment. The provision, originally passed in the wake of the increase in Syrian refugees requiring protection, has provided places for 480 children revised down from 3000 in 2016.

However, Immigration Minister Chris Philp, has now said that a legal route for these unaccompanied children to the UK would no longer be provided.

Only children that have relatives in the UK can join them through the family reunion process, under the new immigration rules. The UK is the only EU country that refuses unaccompanied children this right, despite the fact they have been recognised legally as refugees and therefore under threat of persecution if they returned to their home country.

Lord Dubs campaigning in 2018 for child refugees with Safe Passage
Lord Dubs campaigning with young refugees and charity Safe Passage in 2018, calling for 10,000 children to be given safe passage to the UK over 10 years. [Image: Safe Passage]

Despite calls from charities urging the government to act to protect the hundreds of unaccompanied children stuck in northern France and the Greek islands, there will be no replacement measures. Other EU nations have taken over 400 child refugees at the end of last year, while the UK has taken none.

Chris Philp, Immigration Minister has said that a legal route for these unaccompanied children to come the UK would no longer be provided

Mr Philp stated ‘the responsibility lies in the safe EU country in which they are present, in accordance to international obligations’.

Further on in the statements provided, the government repeated that they ‘had to be sure they could look after the children who are already here’. Since October last year, multiple local authorities across the country have refuted these claims of scarcity. 25 councils have pledged 1,400 places, on the condition of further government support.

To the latest announcement of the ‘shut door’ policy on child refugees, Lord Dubs responded, ‘To hear them saying it’s shut altogether, that is rather more definitive than before. It’s all part of a chain of events that are making things harder for refugees.’

Other EU nations have taken over 400 child refugees at the end of last year, while the UK took none

The government continues to make claims that safe and legal routes are still accessible, saying the UK has been ‘the top resettlement country for the last five years’. While this may be true, refugee resettlement accounts for only a small number of people seeking safety in the UK per year. Furthermore, the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme has not resettled a single person since March of last year. Government inaction on the scheme means its future as a safe route for people to start a new life in the UK has also not been confirmed.

Far from a more ‘firm and fair’ asylum system, campaigners have warned the finality of these policies would actually mean more children try any means necessary to get to countries where they feel safer and have a better chance with an asylum claim, potentially through traffickers.

The government’s comments and inaction show the lack of compassion for those most in need of protection.

[Header Image: Rene Bernal on Unsplash]