Section 67 of the 2016 Immigration Act, now the Dubs amendment, was a hard fought battle for the activists, campaigners and politicians who supported it. Originally meant to be 3,000, the language was then changed to ‘unspecified’. The ambiguity of such law making has now resulted in a ducking out of the responsibilities of any moral person and indeed government. It was confirmed by the government that the project was closing after the final 150 had been brought in, as well as a separate scheme under the Dublin Convention also ending.
Immigration minister Robert Goodwill stated: “The UK can be proud of its record helping refugee children and I can today announce, in accordance with section 67 of the Immigration Act, that the government will transfer the specified number of 350 children pursuant to that section, who reasonably meet the intention and spirit behind the provision”
Whilst the U.K might have in the past been proud of its record helping refugee children, of whom Lord Dubs once was, it certainly shouldn’t be now. We are the second largest economy in Europe, we are one the largest global arms traders, and we have been involved in the military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq – the countries of origin for the most children. We refuse to accept that we should bear an equal load in providing care, a future and opportunities for these vulnerable and scarred children.
For local authorities the task is indeed steep. Children get funding from the government, at around £114 a day for under 16 year olds, £91 a day for 16-17 year olds and £200 a week for former unaccompanied children leaving care (http://www.local.gov.uk/refugees). Despite this councils usually have to cover around half the cost (http://www.localgov.co.uk). There continues to be an issue with foster carers, although councils have reported more coming forward, in that many of the unaccompanied children are over 16 (61%) and male (over 90%). Problems further arise when the reality of major trauma and psychological damage is understood to be widespread in refugee children.
The response should never be to back away from the problem. Just because the British government isn’t accepting them doesn’t mean these children will disappear; it doesn’t mean their lives will improve. Instead of boosting integration with increased for ESOL classes, education and further, we will continue to have stories of children attempting to enter the country by illegal means. Instead of welcoming those less fortunate than ourselves and providing them with a future, we sacrifice thousands – and that is no exaggeration – to become a lost generation in Europe.
This decision by the government is at best a statement of ‘job done’; that their duty is over and they have done what they can. With the humanitarian crisis showing no signs of stopping this is clearly a false position. At worst it is sinister. Coming so hot on the heels of the Executive order on immigration from the new President of the United States, it is almost too easy to read similar intentions with our own lack of compassion.
Yielding humanitarian values in order to protect against the rise of populism is submitting to populism. Within a month of the demolition of the Calais Jungle the Refugee Youth Service (RYS) reported a third of 179 monitored children had disappeared, a further 2% were sleeping rough. Let there be no mistake; when these children disappear they are becoming the victims of trafficking, which they may have already been. The government has a laudable campaign to stop modern slavery, yet cannot see the paradox in supporting the latter without backing the former. These are children. Many of the politicians in Westminster are mothers, fathers, and grandparents. I cannot fathom how they cannot fight tooth and nail for the protection of innocents.