Monday, February 13, 2017

Best way to help Syrian refugees.

I've blogged before about the best way to help Syrian refugees, challenging the idea that the proposal put forward by Lord Alf Dubs to take refugee 'children' in from France was neither the most effective nor the most humanitarian. I have much respect for Lord Dubs' opinion, bearing in mind his personal back story, but thought he was mistaken. It was too important an issue just to 'go with the flow' for an easy life. Because of Lord Dubs background, I felt there was not a proper evaluation of the options open to the UK to help. I also disagreed with Govt when it legislated to accept the amendment. I made my views known to my whips office.  The Minister telephoned me at home on a Sunday morning, hoping I would not rebel on the issue. I didn't because the Dubs amendment would clearly bring humanitarian relief to refugees, even if not the most effective and most humanitarian way to do it. The Dubs amendment has worked in practice very much as I expected. The Home Secretary has now published a 'statement' outlining the Govt position - as follows....

"Britain has a proud record of helping the most vulnerable children who are fleeing conflict and danger, and this Government is committed to upholding this fine tradition.

Our response to the migrant crisis has been to establish resettlement schemes from the region, where we can best target our support to help the most vulnerable. That is why we will resettle 20,000 Syrians over the course of this parliament and we will also resettle 3,000 children and their families from the wider region. In the last year we have granted asylum or another form of leave to over 8,000 children and of the over 4,400 individuals resettled through the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement scheme so far, around half are children.

This week the Government announced that in accordance with section 67 of the Immigration Act (the so-called Dubs amendment) we will transfer 350 children.  to meet the intention and spirit behind the amendment.  This number includes over 200 children already transferred under section 67 from France, and will include a further 150 over the coming months.

The scheme has not closed, as reported by some. We were obliged by the Immigration Act to put a specific number on how many children we would take based on a consultation with local authorities about their capacity. This is the number that we have published and we will now be working in Greece, Italy and France to transfer further children under the amendment. We’re clear that behind these numbers are children and it’s vital that we get the balance right between enabling eligible children to come to the UK as quickly as possible and ensuring local authorities have capacity to host them and provide them with the support and care they will need.

We consulted extensively with local authorities over several months to reach this number, but if your local authority is contacting you suggesting they have extra capacity to take children then please encourage them to participate in the National Transfer Scheme. Each year we have around 3,000 unaccompanied asylum seeking children arrive in Britain and currently a small number of councils are taking a disproportionate share of the burden in caring for these children.

The Government has also always been clear that we do not want to incentivise perilous journeys to Europe, particularly by the most vulnerable children.  That is why children must have arrived in Europe before 20 March 2016 to be eligible under section 67 of the Immigration Act.

I’m proud of the action this Government has taken, and will continue to take, to support and care for the most vulnerable children caught up in the crisis in Syria."

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