Tories send refugee children into the hands of smugglers

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‘LET me be clear, the decision to cancel the Dubs scheme after admitting only 350 lone refugee children shames Britain. It must not stand,’ Labour Alison McGovern MP for Wirral South told the House of Commons yesterday.

She was moving the motion on unaccompanied children in Greece and Italy in Parliament yesterday. At the beginning of the month, PM Theresa May announced that after 350 children are let into the UK the Dubs scheme would be shut down.

McGovern continued: ‘That amendment was won after a hard fight by activists inside and outside this place. It was a symbol of recognition from the government that we can and should do more for those children in need of our help.

‘But now this – 350 children and the door slams shut. Is this really it? We in this House were led to believe that there would be at least 3,000 children arriving under Dubs, honestly, not enough for me, but a good start.

‘I am sure I speak for many, I am angry that the government has let us all down. Worse though, is the fate of children in Europe today who thought that they were coming to Britain. Children from Syria, Somalia or Darfur, who told journalists that they may as well clamber onto lorries to get to safety as they have given up on our country keeping its promises.’

On the eve of the debate charities warned that PM May’s Tory government, in refusing to carry out the government’s pledge to bring lone refugee children into the UK, is driving children into the hands of people smugglers.

Earlier in the week a teenage refugee was so desperate to get into the UK he had clung on the underside of a truck, and on his arrival in Britain was sent back to France. Last Tuesday, toddlers and young children were among 74 bodies which washed up on a Libyan beach, after a boat full of refugees attempting to reach Europe capsized.

Joel Millman, from the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), said the boat’s engine was believed to have been removed at sea, possibly by smugglers or armed gangs. Safe Passage UK, which is run by Citizens UK, warned that to take one of these extremely dangerous sea journeys, that often end in drowning, cost each refugee between £3,000 and £10,000.

Save the Children said yesterday: ‘The government must not walk away from the Dubs amendment, which was passed in a spirit of generosity. This was a pledge to help the most vulnerable children caught up in the refugee crisis. Every day, our teams on the ground across Europe hear from child refugees who have fled the horrors of war only to end up languishing in refugee camps, detention centres or on the streets with little hope of a better future.

‘Many of these children suffer from depression and even start to self-harm – and many resort to putting their young lives in the hands of criminal people smugglers to find sanctuary. There are an estimated 2,300 unaccompanied children in Greece and 25,000 lone children arrived in Italy in 2016, yet not a single child has been transferred to the UK from either country under the Dubs scheme.’