NORTHERN Isles MP Alistair Carmichael is urging the UK government to do more for unaccompanied child refugees.
Earlier this week – while much attention was focused on Westminster’s latest Brexit vote – the government slipped out an announcement that it would limit the number of child refugees it takes to 350, rather than the 3,000 it had previously committed to.
That sparked stern criticism, with numerous local authorities coming forward to contradict home secretary Amber Rudd’s claim that councils did not have the resources to take any more.
Alf Dubs, whose amendment had secured a commitment that around 3,000 children would be brought to the UK, described it as a “very bad let-down for some very vulnerable children in France, Greece and Italy” and meant the UK would not be accepting its fair share.
Carmichael referred to how, coming under “massive public pressure”, the government last year agreed to Lord Dubs’ amendment to set up a process allowing vulnerable children to come to the UK.
“[On Wednesday] with some of the pressure off them and when parliament was busy dealing with the Brexit bill, they slipped out a written announcement that they would be closing the scheme,” he said.
“At a time when Britain’s standing is already diminished by our Prime Minister’s rush to cosy up to President Trump, this is a further blow to our standing on the world stage.”
Carmichael is urging Rudd to use discretionary sections of the Dublin regulations, a set of EU rules determining the member state responsible for an asylum application process, to ensure any refugees with family in the UK could be reunited with their relatives.
He told the House of Commons on Thursday: “This is an issue where she has the opportunity to demonstrate that our global vision is about more than just trade deals.
“Limiting our ambitions to less than one per cent of the desperate children who need to be helped is not worthy of that vision.
“Will the home secretary look at the way in which she uses the Dublin regulations; there are discretionary clauses there which could be used more effectively to identify children with family links already in the UK to ensure that they were helped.”
Rudd responded that the number of children being transferred under the Dublin arrangements was previously very small before the government “really leant in to identify children that qualify under the Dublin arrangements into Calais”.
“We managed to transfer nearly 600 under Dublin last year,” she said. “I now feel that the Home Office and other associated organisations who help us deliver on Dublin have learnt how to ensure that it operates better in the future, and I am confident that those numbers will improve going forward.”