Lone child refugee cap to deter people-traffickers, Home Secretary says
Home Secretary Amber Rudd has said the Government had to cap the number of lone child refugees being brought to Britain from Europe because the rule was encouraging people-traffickers.
Ms Rudd said the so-called Dubs Amendment was acting as a pull factor for children to try to reach Europe, which left them vulnerable to traffickers.
A backlash erupted after ministers announced that just 350 children will be brought to the UK under the scheme - far fewer than the 3,000 originally expected.
There were angry scenes in the Lords when Home Office minister Baroness Williams of Trafford denied the scheme had been closed.
Labour's Lord Dubs, who spearheaded the amendment, said he was puzzled by the claim and accused ministers of breaching their own commitments by "arbitrarily closing down" the scheme.
On Wednesday, ministers quietly announced that 200 children have been brought in under the scheme and that it will close after another 150 are settled in the UK.
Responding to an urgent question from Labour's Yvette Cooper in the Commons, Ms Rudd said: "I am clear that when working with my French counterparts, they do not want us to indefinitely continue to accept children under the Dubs Amendment because they specify, and I agree with them, that it acts as a draw. It acts as a pull.
"It encourages the people-traffickers."
Ms Cooper, who chairs the Home Affairs Select Committee, said thousands of child refugees are languishing in camps in Greece and Italy, desperate for help and at risk of abuse, exploitation and modern slavery.
Addressing Ms Rudd directly, she said: "Britain can do better than this. Will she accept that and reinstate the Dubs programme now?"
But Ms Rudd said the UK is concentrating its efforts on providing aid and resettlement to vulnerable people in crisis-hit regions such as Syria.
She said: "I completely reject her attack. The UK has a strong reputation in Europe and internationally for looking after the most vulnerable. That will continue.
"We have a different approach to where those most vulnerable are, we believe that they are in the region. That's why we have made a pledge to accept 3,000 children from the region and we are committed to delivering on that.
"They are the most vulnerable."
The Home Secretary suggested that local authority funding had come into the equation when deciding how many child refugees would be settled under the programme.
But shadow home secretary Diane Abbott attacked Ms Rudd, saying: "How does she live with herself, leaving thousands of children subject to disease, people trafficking, squalor and hopelessness?"
In the Lords, Lady Williams insisted the scheme was not closed, with children still due to arrive "up to the specified number of 350".
But her insistence that the scheme had not been closed prompted protests from both sides of the House.
Lord Dubs said he was "slightly puzzled" the Government had set a specified number and after this was reached the scheme would clearly be closed.
He said that in "arbitrarily closing down the scheme without any good reason for doing so, the Government is in breach of its own commitments".
Tory Lord Cormack said concern over the Government's stance was not confined to the Labour and Liberal Democrat benches.
Liberal Democrat Baroness Sheehan said it was "palpably faulty" to suggest local authorities had reached the "end of the road" with the scheme and accused the Government of being "disinterested in taking any more".
But Lady Williams said this was "absolutely wrong" and urged local authorities or community groups willing to help to contact the Home Office.