Thank you to everyone who has emailed me about family reunification for unaccompanied child refugees. I completely agree about the importance of this issue. We should be doing everything we can to help reunite those families who have been separated after experiencing the trauma of war, persecution and conflict.
Clause 37 of the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill is therefore a major breach of faith with some of the most vulnerable children in the world. As you know, it removes the existing requirement for the Government to negotiate an agreement with the EU after Brexit on the rights of unaccompanied refugee children to be reunited with their families in the UK and Europe. Without a new agreement, the existing provisions for unaccompanied refugee children will come to an end at the end of this year.
Amendment 26 to the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill, which you asked me to support, was not put to a vote and did not make it into the Bill. However, I voted for another amendment which sought to remove clause 37 from the Bill and protect the right for unaccompanied child refugees to be reunited with their families in the UK after Brexit. Unfortunately, the Government defeated this amendment by 348 votes to 252.
As Lord Dubs, who successfully campaigned for the existing protections for refugee children in 2016, has said, this is a very depressing and disappointing result. Nevertheless, I hope these protections can be restored as the Bill goes through the House of Lords.
I can assure you that my Labour colleagues and I will continue to press the Government on this issue at every opportunity, including when the Bill returns to the House of Commons.