Despite the Conservative Government voting down the Dubs amendment, a vital part of the Brexit Withdrawal Bill that looked to protect the rights of child refugees to be united with family in the UK, activists have not given up the fight.
The amendment was headed by Lord Alf Dubs, who fled persecution from Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia in 1939, to ensure unaccompanied refugee children would be reunited with families in the UK post-Brexit. After winning a majority in the House of Lords, the Conservatives chose to reverse their decision, much to the dismay of Lord Dubs and the many activists, protestors and campaigners who seek to ensure no one has their human rights denied.
The Families Together Coalition, which includes the campaign organisation Amnesty, walked to the UK Home Office this week to hand in their petition which calls for these rights to be protected.
Children from Oaklands Secondary School in Bethnal Green were accompanied by Families Belong Together campaigners as they walked from Westminster to the Home Office in an optimistic display of unity.
There has been little convincing rhetoric from the Government on their decision to change their minds to protect lone refugee children
Tom Davies, Campaign Manager at Amnesty International, labelled the amendment drop as “cruel and restrictive”, stating: “There are many vulnerable children who need to be with their families and being separated from them is not a good thing and the Government is doing that intentionally.”
The choice to keep vulnerable child refugees from the safety of their families in the UK mirrors the immigration tactics from across the Atlantic, with figures detailing the Trump Administration’s separation of over 5,400 children from their families since July 2017. Professionals such as psychologists and paediatricians have warned that children separated from relatives are likely to suffer from severe, long-lasting psychological trauma.
The petition now in the hands of the Home Office boasts over 75,000 signatures from people of all backgrounds including young people, refugees and MPs.
Maurice Wren, Chief Executive of the Refugee Council, said that the loss of the amendment “blights the many young lives that are already destabilised by trauma, isolation and loss.”
The infringement upon refugee children’s rights has been widely condemned, from judges, specialist committees and even the Convention of Human Rights which stipulates under Article 8 and Article 3 that respect of family life and a child’s best interests are paramount to their wellbeing.
Words are cheap, especially from this Conservative Government
There has been little convincing rhetoric from the Government on their decision to change their minds to protect lone refugee children. ImmiNews reported that leading politicians maintain they will protect refugees’ rights, with Brexit Minister Robin Walker expressing the Government being “fully committed” to family reunification.
To be fully committed, the Government needs to have a transparent and logical plan about how refugee children will be reunited with families efficiently and safety. Yet, it votes to deny them such a basic human right and instead resigns them to a childhood of being alone, anxious and frightened. No child is going to flourish in an environment that pushes them from pillar to post, likely in poverty due to constant housing and social care cuts and suffering from the trauma of war and isolation.
Words are cheap, especially from this Conservative Government, which talks in doublespeak: as it promises to care for refugee children it votes to keep them in a cycle of misery.