Dubs delivers petition to No 10 and condemns child refugee ‘cop-out’

Haroon Siddique
11 February 2017
The Guardian

Pressure increases on Theresa May as religious leaders join Lord Dubs in protest about sudden closure of lone child scheme

Theresa May has come under continued pressure to reopen the UK scheme to accept lone child refugees as the Labour peer Alf Dubs delivered a petition condemning its sudden closure to Downing Street.

About 50,000 people have signed the petition amid widespread anger and dismay at a decision to cap the number of children being brought to Britain at 350. It was widely assumed that up to 3,000 children might be helped when the Dubs amendment to the immigration act was passed.

Religious leaders joined Lord Dubs in his petition presentation on Saturday after the archbishop of Canterbury warned that halting the initiative would see more children being trafficked, exploited and killed.

When addressing the crowd of campaigners who had gathered outside Downing Street, he repeated the words of Nicholas Winton, who organised the evacuation of hundreds of Jewish children including Dubs from Prague in 1939, saying: “If it’s not impossible, there must be a way.”

Dubs said on Friday that the home secretary, Amber Rudd, was wrong to say local authorities did not have the space to take in more children.

Rudd also said British and French authorities were concerned the scheme was acting as a “pull factor” for children to be drawn to the UK and that it provided opportunities for people traffickers.

More than 900 unaccompanied children were transferred to the UK from Europe last year.

“All the government needs to do is put out a new appeal to local authorities asking who can take more children,” Dubs said. “It doesn’t need a whole new consultation. We are going to keep the pressure up about this. I believe that the government decision to limit the number of children allowed in to 350 flies in the face of both parliamentary opinion and public opinion.”

He added: “I was shocked and in disbelief, I couldn’t believe the government could back off in quite that way.

“We want the government to change their minds. The government have said they don’t want to take more than 350 in total under the amendment. I think that’s a very shabby cop-out. I believe that there are thousands of unaccompanied child refugees suffering greatly in Greece, Italy and some in France.

“The government has said no more and I think that is an abdication of their responsibilities, it goes against public opinion and it goes against parliamentary opinion.”

‘I was welcomed. Now I work for the NHS’: views on Dubs from former child refugees

A number of Tory MPs have also promised to fight the decision to close the Dubs scheme. On Saturday, a Conservative peer who was granted asylum in the UK after fleeing the Bosnian war urged the prime minister to live up to Britain’s history as a haven for refugees.

Arminka Helić, a former special adviser to the former foreign secretary William Hague, told The Times: “Britain has a long and proud history of giving refuge to the most vulnerable people. I hope that our government will find a way to live up to that ideal, even amid current challenges.”

Baroness Helić told how, aged 23, she fled the ethnic cleansing of Muslims in Bosnia 25 years ago with her mother and sisters.

She wrote to a family in Barnes, south-west London, where she had been an au pair, asking Jane, the mother, for books. “Inside she placed a ticket to England,” she said. “That is what I want to explain to people about this country, Britain is not [Nigel] Farage, it’s Jane – people who do amazing things.”

Helić is a close friend of Angelina Jolie and the pair co-run the Jolie Pitt Dalton Helić Foundation, which deals with refugees and violence against women.

A high court challenge to the decision to close the Dubs scheme has been pencilled in for 2-4 May. The challenge, which is being brought by the charity Help Refugees, claims that the consultation process with local authorities that led to the cap on the scheme was “fundamentally flawed”.
 
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Liberal Judaism is proud of our young member Elias Kviat-Driscoll, and his best friend Gabriel Ashworth-Steen (pictured), for helping Lord Dubs deliver his petition to 10 Downing Street calling for the Government to reopen the UK scheme to accept lone child refugees.
 
 

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