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Northern Ireland takes in just one migrant child as UK decides scheme must end

By Adrian Rutherford

Just one vulnerable child was brought to Northern Ireland under a scheme to let unaccompanied migrant children into the UK, it has been claimed.

Earlier this week it emerged that a key route to the UK for children caught up in Europe's migrant crisis would close after 350 arrivals.

Home Secretary Amber Rudd said the UK would stop receiving children via the so-called Dubs amendment at the end of March.

The law, designed by peer and former refugee Lord Dubs, a former NIO official, aimed to help some of the estimated 90,000 unaccompanied migrant children across Europe.

Amnesty International said just one unaccompanied child refugee was brought here under the Dubs scheme.

Patrick Corrigan, the Northern Ireland programme director of Amnesty International, said: "We can reveal that only one unaccompanied child refugee has been brought to Northern Ireland under this scheme.

"With wars in Syria and elsewhere showing no signs of ending, there are thousands of desperate, unaccompanied children in need of refuge. Against that background, the fact that only one such vulnerable child has been settled in all of Northern Ireland under the scheme should shame the government for its lack of compassion.

"The announcement that the scheme is now to be ended with only 350 children helped, is a dismal reassertion of the government's refusal to share responsibility with European neighbours for what is a global crisis in urgent need of a collective response.

"By depriving refugee children of a safe route out of dangerous situations elsewhere, the Government only increases the risk that these children fall victim to traffickers and other abusers. The Home Secretary must think again."

On Wednesday, the government announced its intention to end its use of the Dubs scheme.

The agreement, named after its architect, Labour peer Lord Alf Dubs, requires the Government to relocate unaccompanied refugee children from other countries in Europe.

Lord Dubs was Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Northern Ireland Office from May 1997 to December 1999.

Yesterday, the daughter of Sir Nicholas Winton - hailed as "Britain's Schindler" after saving hundreds of children from Nazi tyranny - called on Theresa May to reverse the closure of scheme.

Barbara Winton's late father helped 669 mostly Jewish children flee Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia just before the outbreak of the Second World War.

In a letter to the Prime Minister, she wrote: "Donald Trump's refugee ban echoes the terrible failures of the human spirit that, on the eve of the Second World War, saw country after country close its borders to Jewish refugees in urgent need of protection.

"My father ... knew that each and every one of us share in a responsibility to our fellow men and women, a responsibility to offer sanctuary to those fleeing persecution. 'If it's not impossible', he used to say, 'then surely something could and something must be done'."

Controversy erupted over the Dubs scheme after it emerged that it would come to an end after 150 unaccompanied children are brought to Britain, on top of 200 who have already arrived through the programme.

Mrs May insisted the Government's approach to assisting refugees is "absolutely right", while the Home Secretary defended the approach to the Dubs scheme - saying British and French authorities feared it was acting as a "pull factor" for children to head to the UK and provided opportunities for people-traffickers.

The Home Office has insisted it is not giving up on vulnerable children and youngsters will continue to arrive from around the world through other resettlement schemes and the asylum system.

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