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Child refugee scheme yet to come into effect, says Lord Dubs

Published 10/07/2016

Lord Dubs said no child refugees have come to the UK yet under the scheme announced in May
Lord Dubs said no child refugees have come to the UK yet under the scheme announced in May

A peer who fled the Nazis has warned child refugees promised sanctuary in Britain under a scheme announced in May are still risking their lives hiding in lorries because ministers are dragging their feet implementing the pledge.

In a major policy U-Turn, the Prime Minister announced Britain would take in unaccompanied children registered in France, Italy and Greece following mounting political pressure - including from his own backbenches.

The move came after Lord Dubs, who came to Britain on the Kindertransport programme for Jewish children escaping the Nazis, tabled an amendment to a Bill which would have forced the Government to accept 3,000 child refugees.

But Lord Dubs said that as far as he knows, no children have been brought to Britain under the terms of the Bill.

He told the Press Association: "Now that the referendum is over it is time they got on with it.

"No one has come through on this scheme yet. The only people who have come through I know are young people I met in Calais who then made it to Britain on the back of a lorry.

"These children are in danger. All the evidence is that some of them are in danger of being lured into crime and prostitution."

But Lord Dubs warned that refugee children are coming to a Britain that is less tolerant than it was even a few months ago.

Reports of race hate crime have soared in the wake of the vote to leave the European Union.

Racist graffiti has been scrawled on buildings, cards reading "no more Polish vermin" shoved through letterboxes, and yobs have been filmed hurling racist abuse at tram passengers.

The National Police Chiefs Council and police forces all said they have seen complaints of abuse increase dramatically in the wake of the Brexit vote.

Lord Dubs said: "Yes up to a point it (Britain) is less tolerant. When you contrast it with the Olympics and we had this wonderful international sense of cosmopolitanism and everything was great, now we have moved away from that into becoming more nasty and inward looking.

"But I hope to God it doesn't continue. I know a Belgian family who have been living here for 30 years who were told by their neighbours to get out of the country.

"It is absolutely shocking. It is very depressing, we have sunk in terms of the way we treat other people."

But he insisted there is a "better side" to Britain that welcomes in refugees - and said he hopes this side will win.

"There are such good organisations and people all over the place who are committed to making life decent and finding a proper place for Syrian refugees," he said.

"I hope it will win out otherwise we are sinking lower than I think we have sunk."

Charities have warned that councils giving a home to refugee children lack the assurances for long term Government funding they need.

Citizens UK, Unicef UK and Lord Dubs are all backing an amendment to the Children and Social Work Bill, being debated in Parliament on Monday, to press minsters for greater assurances.

The Bishop of Durham, Paul Butler, spokesman for Citizens UK, said: "Although we rejoiced when the Government agreed to step up and resettle unaccompanied child refugees from Europe, we are disappointed that their words are not being put into action.

"This generous offer of sanctuary to unaccompanied children must not be allowed to fail due to bureaucracy and cuts."

Lily Caprani, deputy executive director at Unicef UK, said: "The process of refugee children being reunited with their families is far too slow and they continue to remain stuck for months in wretched camps from Greece to France.

"The Government needs to take immediate action to speed up these procedures and ensure that these children are reunited with their families."

A Home Office spokesperson said: "No-one should be in any doubt of our commitment to bringing vulnerable refugee children from Europe to the UK, as underpinned in the Immigration Act 2016. Children with family connections to the UK continue to arrive from France.

"We are consulting with local authorities to confirm available capacity and to ensure appropriate support systems are in place.

"We are also in active discussions with the UNHCR and the Italian, Greek and French governments to strengthen and speed up mechanisms to identify, assess and transfer children to the UK and ensure this in their best interests.

"This is in addition to supporting unaccompanied asylum seeking children who arrive from Europe. Last year there were over 3,000 claims for asylum in the UK by unaccompanied children."

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