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Unaccompanied Refugee Children and the Dubs Scheme

Unaccompanied Child Refugees and the Dubs Scheme
The Alf Dubs amendment is an amendment to the Immigration Act, which was passed in May 2016. It was put forward by Lord Dubs and requires the government to arrange for the transfer of an unspecified number of the most vulnerable unaccompanied children in Europe to safety in the UK. Many MPs and peers believed the government had made a commitment to helping 3,000 children under the Dubs Scheme. In February 2017, the government announced that the scheme would close at the end of the financial year after helping just 350 children.

The Figure of 3,000 Children
How was the figure of 3,000 children obtained? This was the figure originally proposed by Save The Children, which said it would represent a “fair share” for the UK of the estimated 24,000 children who arrived in Europe in 2015 without any family. This was stated by Lord Dubs in March 2016. However, official figures later published actually showed that almost 90,000 unaccompanied minors registered in the EU in 2015 alone. It would be possible to help 3,000 children if each constituency offered refuge to just 5 unaccompanied minors.

The Figure of 350 Children
The government states that after consulting with local authorities, 400 places had been offered and so it was only possible to help 350 children under the Dubs scheme (50 of the 400 places have been allocated to children transferred under the Dublin route).

  • 200 children have so far been transferred under the Dubs scheme (these were all children that were transferred in October-December 2016 when the Calais camp was demolished)
  • 150 children are to be transferred by the end of the financial year (from Greece and Italy)
  • Another 50 children were transferred under the Dublin route (family reunification cases) when the Calais camp was demolished, but as they are now unable to live with their families, they have had to be placed in local authority care and these places have now been allocated under the Dubs scheme

The government’s consultation with councils to determine the number of places under the Dubs scheme has been widely criticised and this is the basis for the legal challenge brought by the charity Help Refugees. They claim that the consultation process on the scheme was “fundamentally flawed” and that councils should have been consulted more than once. A high court challenge to Amber Rudd’s decision to close the Dubs scheme is to be heard in early May.

Many councils (including Hammersmith and Fulham, Ealing, and Hounslow) have indicated to Safe Passage and Citizens UK a willingness to take more children under the Dubs scheme than are accounted for in the 400 figure.
No timeline was given for the Dubs scheme and so the sudden announcement that the scheme will close by the end of the financial year is surprising.

On the 1st of March, MPs voted in favour of keeping open the Dubs scheme – a vote that is non-binding on the government, but sends a strong signal. A cross-party group of MPs are taking a new amendment to Parliament on Tuesday the 7th of March, and if MPs vote in favour of this new amendment, the Government would re-consult local authorities and identify further capacity to help children through the Dubs scheme. You can email your MP and ask them to make history on Tuesday – please find a link here.

In addition…

  • In January 2016 it was reported that 10,000 refugee children had gone missing after arriving in Europe according to Europol (the EU’s criminal intelligence agency). Many are feared to have fallen into the hands of organised trafficking syndicates, with children being targets of sex abuse and slavery. In the majority of cases missing unaccompanied children are not found.
  • In Greece, there are an estimated 2,300 registered unaccompanied minors, 1,050 of whom are street homeless. We are the only country in Europe to have opted out of a broader and much larger EU wide relocation scheme, and so, to date, have taken no refugee children from Greece (beyond seven who have come to reunite with family members, six of whom were assisted to do so by Safe Passage).
  • Over 25,000 unaccompanied children arrived in Italy last year. A report by UNICEF found arrivals of younger children and girls have been rising with particular risk of sexual exploitation and trafficking. However, to date, not a single child has been brought over from Italy under the Dubs scheme.
  • In France, it is estimated that 50 unaccompanied children are back in the mud and squalor of Calais, now living rough following the demolition of the camp. In Dunkirk, more children are arriving on a daily basis, with a serious risk of exploitation. With no durable solution achieved by the British and French Governments, unaccompanied children are simply back in the mud and prey to traffickers.

Key Messages

  • Closing the Dubs route after less than six months in operation is neither within the letter nor the spirit of the Dubs amendment, and is a shameful decision.
  • Closing this new safe and legal route to protection for some of the most vulnerable refugees will mean more children resorting to illegal and dangerous trafficking routes, and leaves many children across Europe at greater risk.
  • The Prime Minister should listen to the calls by councils, communities, faith leaders, and politicians of all Parties to keep the Dubs Scheme open, and work with councils to help more children over the coming years.

We are calling for…

  • The Dubs route to be kept open beyond April
  • For local authorities to be re-consulted about their capacity

Never mind the numbers, more or less – we believe that so long as a single child is in danger of serious neglect or harm and we have the will and the means to help them, we should do so – charity neither begins at home, nor does it ever end: our fundamental humanity demands that our charity is unlimited.

To find out how you can help, please take a look at some suggested actions here. Thank you.

Sources Include…

The Citizens UK Dubs Campaign Pack has been particularly useful in compiling this information.