Last month, the Government quietly dropped its obligation to the Dubs amendment – a pledge to resettle unaccompanied child refugees in the UK. Today, the Government reaffirmed its lack of commitment to refugee children by voting down a similar amendment to the Children and Social Work Bill.
The amendment was first proposed by Lords Dubs, a Labour peer who fled persecution from the Nazis as a child. After initially refusing to support the amendment, the Government later changed its position and accepted the Dubs amendment in June last year. Charities estimated that the scheme could help around 3000 unaccompanied minors living in camps across Europe, but since the amendment was accepted only 350 children have arrived in the UK.
Last month, the Government chose to quietly scrap their commitment to child refugees via a written ministerial statement. I spoke out on this at the time – you can watch the clip here. In response to this, a similar amendment about child refugees was made to the Children and Social Work Bill in an attempt to keep the Dubs scheme open.
The new amendment would have required councils to let the Government know whether they have spare capacity to house unaccompanied child refugees. In Lewisham, our council has previously offered 23 foster places for Dubs child refugees but 22 of these places are yet to be filled. Other local authorities across the country have made similar offers. Gloucestershire has offered 10 foster places but has only received two children. Bristol has also offered 10 places and is yet to receive even one child. If councils are making offers which are being ignored by the Government, it makes no sense for MPs to vote against local authorities housing refugees when the will and the capacity is clearly there.
As a Labour Whip, I worked hard in attempting to get this amendment through today, but unfortunately we lost the vote by 287-267. I am extremely disappointed by this result. We were expecting more Tory rebels to vote with us, but in the end only three Conservative MPs decided to vote for the Dubs amendment.
We will continue to keep the pressure on the Government in regards to its commitment to child refugees and I will keep my website updated with any future developments.