Why Isn’t the UK Doing More to Help Child Refugees?

A new Guardian investigation reveals that Britain’s local councils are willing and able to accept more refugees, but the UK government doesn’t appear to be listening.

The Guardian reports:

According to responses to freedom of information requests (FOIs) by the Guardian, local district and borough councils have pledged homes for approximately 21,650 Syrian refugees, with many councils saying they will make more properties available as the need arises.

The LGA says having a higher number of pledges is part of a strategy to ensure that appropriate homes are found for refugees and does not mean more than 20,000 refugees will be allowed to enter the country. But community groups say the pledges show local authorities are willing to provide homes to more refugees and have the capacity to do so. These groups say they are ready to take in more refugees if May were to increase the government’s pledge.

This raises yet more questions about why the UK government refuses to take in more refugees — and, crucially, why it has abandoned a key resettlement scheme for unaccompanied children in refugee camps.

Has the government abandoned child refugees?

Former Prime Minister David Cameron pledged to take in 20,000 Syrian refugees by 2020 after images circulated online of Alan Kurdi, a three-year-old Syrian boy who drowned in the Mediterranean Sea. This number was highly criticized as far too low, given the UK’s economic power — especially compared to other nations like Germany.

Nevertheless, initially the UK did appear to be on track to honor that commitment. However, by the middle of 2016 warnings emerged that the government’s per month resettlement had dropped significantly — sometimes coming in as low as just over 500 people.

In January of 2017 figures showed that in the two years since the commitment was made, the UK had resettled just 3,000 Syrians. While admittedly this is an achievement, it is a full 1,000 behind the government’s target rate if it is to meet its 2020 resettlement goal. And that’s not the only area of concern on the refugee question, either.

Urged by human rights groups, opposition forces and even members of their own party, the UK Government vowed to honor an amendment to its Syrian refugee plans supported by Labour Peer Lord Alf Dubs, who himself was rescued as a child from Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia. Dubs had campaigned for the UK to accept unaccompanied child refugees from France, Greece and other relevant areas who were fleeing the Syrian regime. The UK government said it would honor the Dubs amendment and charities expected that it would therefore take in around 3,000 unaccompanied children–but that didn’t happen. 

Instead, the UK government announced in February of 2017 that it was closing the Dubs Amendment scheme after accepting just 350 youths.

At the time, Labour MP Yvette Cooper, who has been a driving force in the campaign for greater attention on unaccompanied refugee children, condemned the move, stating:

The Government is completely wrong to close down the Dubs scheme and they are going against the spirit of Parliament’s amendment last year. It is important and welcome that Britain has helped refugee children from Syria and from elsewhere as a result of Parliamentary pressure. The vast majority of those children have either arrived with their families or are re-joining their families who are here. But to close the programme that helps lone child refugees after helping only 350 children is completely wrong.

Ministers immediately set about trying to reintroduce the Dubs scheme by amending the Children and Social Work Bill. The revised legislation would create a mandatory reporting facility, thereby allowing local councils to notify the government of their capacity to take in new refugees.

But on March 7, the Tory government defeated the measure 287 votes to 267, with only three Conservative MPs voting for reinstating a version of the scheme. The government did, however, encourage local councils to report how many child refugees they could accommodate. 

Why is the UK government ignoring local authorities, then?

Given the Guardian’s revelations that there is a clear willingness among local councils to accommodate more refugees, the question remains: What is the government doing about it? The answer is, essentially, nothing.

Now that the UK has initiated the slow process of exiting the European Union, there are fears that the UK’s broader anti-immigration agenda — manifested in the Brexit campaign itself and its unreasonable focus on the negligible burden of NHS tourists – means that the government simply won’t give the refugee crisis necessary attention.

The emerging data of such a big disconnect between what the UK government is saying — namely, passing the responsibility for action to local authorities — and what local governments are showing in their commitments to accept more refugees is a worrying sign. The UK is not only falling behind on its modest 20,000 refugee target, but it also appears prepared to let refugee children suffer as it works to close its borders.

The UK government must reverse course and immediately reevaluate its commitments to refugees — particularly to unaccompanied child refugees, who are some of the most vulnerable to come out of the Syrian crisis.

Photo credit: Thinkstock.

50 comments

Jack Y
Jack Y10 months ago

thanks

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Jack Y
Jack Y10 months ago

thanks

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John J
John J10 months ago

thanks for sharing

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John J
John J10 months ago

thanks for sharing

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Misss D
Shari F1 years ago

The UK government has made a legal commitment to take in 20,000 child refugees. The government is now trying to not follow its own rules and its own commitment and is hoping that if it does so quietly, then no one will really notice. The fact is that 20,000 people is a tiny number and the country can easily afford it. Absorption of this number of people is nothing; less than a drop in the ocean. That the government is seeking to stymie even this pitiful number is a terrible indictment of our society. It is a shame that the nonsense peddled by newspapers such as the Daily Mail, shown in Berny P’s comments, are allowed to influence the public’s perception as much as they are. As the article states, most of them are children who already have family here in Britain and need to be reunited with them.

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Carl R
Carl R2 years ago

thanks!!!

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Nancy Wrightington

My heart hurts so tremendously! I actually get angry when animals (mainly dogs and cats and don't get me wrong I am animal lover by all stretch of the imagination) get so much attention. But children, children should NOT be ignored, pushed aside, abused or ignored. These babies were created by God and it is OUR duty to feed, clothe, shelter and keep safe from all harm. This is my prayer!

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Berny p
berny p2 years ago

Most of the "unaccompanied children" seem to be far older than 18. Many wish to bring in entire extended families and many are not from war zones but are economic migrants who have paid a small fortune to reach their "promised land". ........SO NOT SO POOR!!!
Why do they cross safe countries to get to the UK? Its because they believe we are a soft touch and will give them houses, money and an easy life. .....WE DO!!!
They are disappointed when they get here to find a cold and wet climate, low paid jobs and a housing shortage. Sometimes this disappointment turns to rage when they find we do not adhere to their cultural norms ....NO WE DONT...WOMEN HAVE RIGHT IN THE UK....and some of us want them to adopt some of ours we have spent decades if not centuries fighting for. ....THEY DONT LIKE THAT!
Why don't they go to rich Middle Eastern countries like Saudi Arabia OR ARAB COUNTRIES WHO HAVE THEIR BELEIVE.....BECAUSE UK AND EUROPE ARE RUN BY PEOPLE WHO DO NOT HAVE TO LIVE WITH THEM!

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Teresa A
Teresa Antela2 years ago

Thanks

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Ruth Rakotomanga
Ruth R2 years ago

Thanks for sharing.

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