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Thursday, 14 September 2017

Government criticised over Dubs child refugee scheme sees only 200 given sanctuary

Written by Nick Lester

Criticism has been levelled at the Government after it confirmed a scheme to take in lone child refugees from Europe had seen only around 200 youngsters so far given sanctuary.

This was fewer than half the 480 unaccompanied minors the Conservative administration had agreed to take when it controversially closed the initiative.

However, ministers have defended the Government's record arguing it "can't just go into countries and take children".

Tory frontbencher Baroness Williams of Trafford told peers all transfers needed to be conducted in line with the laws of other countries and said more young refugees were expected to arrive "in coming weeks".

The Home Office Minister also pointed out last year the UK had taken more refugees from outside Europe than any other member state and since 2010 more than 42,000 children had been given asylum or leave to remain.

She was responding after being pressed by Labour peer Lord Dubs over progress on its commitment to take youngsters under the scheme that bears his name.

He was the architect of Section 67 of the Immigration Act 2016 that required ministers to make arrangements to relocate and support unaccompanied refugee children from Europe.

The Government subsequently closed the Dubs scheme after committing the UK to take 480 child refugees - well below the 3,000 campaigners had demanded.

Speaking in the House of Lords, Lady Williams said: "The Government is committed to transferring a specified number of eligible children to the UK under Section 67 of the Immigration Act of 2016 as part of our broader response to the migration crisis.

"All transfers need to take place in line with member states national laws.

"Last year we transferred over 200 children under the scheme. We have accepted further referrals in recent weeks and we expect children to arrive in the UK in coming weeks."

But Lord Dubs said: "Does the minister agree that the figure of 200 to date is disappointing?

"If that is a problem with the Greek, Italian and French authorities that is very disappointing, if it is the fault of the British Government it's shocking. Which is it?"

Lady Williams said: "We continue to work with our partners in Europe under the scheme to transfer children where we can.

"Of course, we can't just go into countries and take children."

She added: "The UK has settled more refugees from outside of Europe in the last year, in 2016, than any EU state.

"Over a third of people resettled to the EU was to the UK.

"We have granted asylum or another form of leave to over 9,000 children in the past year, over 42,000 since 2010."

Lady Williams told peers: "This country has been a very welcoming safe haven to refugees and asylum seekers over the years.

"We will continue to meet our commitment to those who need our help."

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2017, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Gareth Fuller / PA Wire.