Cardinal Vincent Nichols has called on the Government to “review urgently” its decision to limit a scheme to relocate unaccompanied child refugees from continental Europe to the United Kingdom to just 350 children.
The revised policy was announced in a statement to the House of Commons by Robert Goodwill, the Immigration Minister, who said that the local authorities lacked the capacity to accept the orginal proposed number of 3,000 children mostly from France.
But Cardinal Nichols, the President of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, said it appeared to many people that the Government was “abandoning its statutory and moral duty to take effective action for the protection of vulnerable, unaccompanied child refugees”.
“If this is the case, then it is truly shocking,” he said.
“I urge the government to look again at all available resources and to work with renewed vigour, internationally and at home, to support and enable programmes to assist these vulnerable children,” he said.
“To neglect these unaccompanied children is to leave them extremely vulnerable to human trafficking with all its terrible consequences. I ask the Home Secretary to review urgently the decision and to honour the original intention.”
The Government had been compelled to relocate a “specified number” of child refugees by Section 67 of the 2016 Immigration Act, a clause known as the “Dubs amendment” after the Labour peer Lord Dubs, a child refugee from Nazi Europe, who introduced it.
Defending the decision to halt the scheme, Home Secretary Amber Rudd told the House of Commons that the Dubs amendment was encouraging human trafficking and that French authorities wanted Britain to bring it to a close.
Miss Rudd said: “I am clear that when working with my French counterparts, they do not want us to indefinitely continue to accept children under the Dubs amendment because they specify – and I agree with them – that it acts as a draw, it acts as a pull, it encourages the people traffickers.”
The Government has also argued that the Dubs amendment scheme was just one of about eight mechanisms for resettling refugees. Another scheme involves the relocation of about 20,000 vulnerable Syrians directly from refugee camps in Jordan and Lebanon.
(Photo by Marcin Mazur, Catholic Communications Network)