The Relocation of Children 4th May 2016
I voted, in the House of Commons, against the amendment, proposed by Lord Dubs, calling upon the Government to “locate 3,000 `children` from Europe” in the United Kingdom.
We all recognise the need for the Government to do as much as it can to respond to the continuing migration crises and the best we can to support the most vulnerable people affected by the appalling circumstances generated by the civil war in Syria and by terrorist action on the part of Daesh.
In response to the developing situation and in place of the proposal put forward by Lord Dubs the Government has taken steps to establish a new re-settlement scheme focused upon children at risk in the Middle East and North Africa. That scheme is supported by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. A further 3,000 young people (many of the “children” are in fact young adults) will be located in the United Kingdom in addition to our commitment to re-settle 20,000 Syrian refugees approved by the UNHCR and taken from camps in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan.
The Department for International Development has already committed £46m to help support refugees and a further £10m fund has been established to focus specifically on the needs of children in Europe. This focus includes the support of reunification with families that they may have been separated from and who are in other EU countries as well as the United Kingdom. Again this fund will be administered by three specialist organisations including Save the Children and UNHCR. Separately seventy-five specialist UK staff are being deployed to Greece to support effective reception screening and the processing of newly arrived migrants, which will help to identify children and see that they are given appropriate support and care at the earliest opportunity.
The United Kingdom has, in my view, correctly adopted a policy to take children and adults only from refugee camps in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan and who have been screened by the UNHCR. The basis of this policy is not only security (we need to make sure that the people that we let into the United Kingdom are genuine refugees, not economic migrants terrorists) and also to prevent inadvertent consequences that encourage people traffickers to entice more young people to put their lives at risk by making the dangerous sea crossing to Southern Europe.
Britain has a proud and long tradition of taking refugees fleeing in fear of their lives from war zones and that tradition continues.
We have committed more funds to the support of refugees from the Middle East and beyond than the whole of the rest of Europe combined and are second only to the United States in our financial commitment to this cause. At the same time Britain is a relatively small island and we have the highest population density in the whole of Western Europe – including Germany. If we are to continue to assist refugees, including children, as I believe we must, then it is vital that our assistance is driven not simply by humanity but also by practicability. That is why I am satisfied that the position taken by the Government and that I have voted for is honourable, generous, compassionate and realistic.