Disappointment at child refugee vote
Charities and campaigners have reacted with dismay after MPs voted not to take in unaccompanied children stranded in Europe
On Monday night the Government narrowly defeated a cross-party amendment to the immigration bill that would have seen the UK accept 3,000 child refugees. The amendment was tabled by Lord Alf Dubs, who was rescued by Kindertransport, the government-backed programme that accepted child refugees from Germany ahead of the Second World War.
The Government had recently announced that that it would take in an extra 3,000 child refugees over the next four years who are currently based in camps in the Middle East and North Africa. The major argument it put forward against taking in unaccompanied children in Europe was the possibility of a 'pull factor', that such a policy would encourage more.
MPs voted against the amendment by 294 votes to 276.
The Christian fostering and adoption charity Home for Good said it was ‘very disappointed' about the result.
‘This crisis has not gone away and there are still many children in need of loving homes,’ it stated. ‘Last year over 3000 children arrived unaccompanied into the UK and claimed asylum, some fleeing war, others violence and hardship. These children desperately need homes and people to care for them.’
Kirsty McNeill, Director of Advocacy and Campaigns at Save the Children, said: ‘Today’s narrow vote by MPs not to offer sanctuary to 3,000 lone refugee children who are already in Europe is deeply disappointing.’
Baptist minister Juliet Kilpin, who has been regularly visiting the refugee camp often called 'the jungle' in Calais since August 2015, live-tweeted the debate. Just before the vote was announced she wrote: ‘Waiting for our finest moment or our worst.’
Following the result she wrote how 3000 children equates to just five children per constituency, adding ‘Contemplating options if my government honestly thinks it's best thing to not give refuge to 3000 child refugees.’
In a blog entitled “Shame”, Baptist regional minister Nick Lear noted that a mere ten votes would have changed the outcome – and how many MPs only came into the House of Commons Chamber for the vote, not the ‘impassioned, moving and (on the whole) well-informed debate' that preceded it.
‘If just 10 of the MPs who voted against the amendment had changed their mind and voted in favour of it the amendment would have carried and 3000 children would now have a hope and a future,’ Nick wrote. ‘I was deeply saddened and ashamed that our country had turned its back on these children.’
Of the pull factor theory, Nick wrote, ‘...that’s just daft. If my child ran and fell over, hurting their leg, I would not leave them there saying, “If I help you now it will encourage you to run again and I’ll only have to help you some more if you fall over again."
‘Where’s the compassion?’
A revised amendment was debated and passed in the House of Lords on Tuesday. The alternative doesn’t refer to a specific number of refugees, stating that numbers “shall be determined by the government in consultation with local authorities.” The amended Amendment will now come back to the Commons.