After announcing the closure of the Dubs scheme for unaccompanied children in Europe last month, the Home Office has published new implementation guidelines for the remaining 150 children who will be taken to the UK by the end of March.
These 150 children will be in addition to the 200 who have been given a safe and legal route under S67 of the Immigration Act, also known as the Dubs amendment, named after its champion, Lord Alf Dubs – himself a child refugee who came to the UK in 1938 in the Kindertransport Scheme. Help Refugees witnessed Lord Dubs, alongside Safe Passage UK, UNICEF and Human Rights Watch give oral evidence to the International Development Committee in Parliament today (14th March)
The new guidelines no longer restrict eligibility to children from Sudan and Syria, as the previous ones did, but maintain children must be “likely to be granted refugee status in the UK”. The UK currently has a 75% approval rate. Additionally, the children must fulfil the UNHCR requirement for being at risk and have a Best Interests Determination – an assessment stating it is the child’s best interest to be in the UK. Risk factors include but are not limited to “child victims of trafficking and sexual abuse; survivors of torture; survivors of violence; and, children with mental or physical disabilities.”
The guidelines additionally state that they will be accepting referrals from the authorities in France, Greece and Italy for eligible children leaving the onus on host countries to refer the150 children they deem eligible to the UK Home Office. However, with hundreds of lone children in France (some currently outside state protection), an estimated 2300 in Greece, approximately 30,000 in Italy and only ONE Home Office representative in each of these countries – Help Refugees are extremely concerned how the remaining 150 to be transferred by the end of the month will be chosen from the tens of thousands currently on European soil.
Help Refugees have campaigned for the Dubs criteria to be vulnerability-based, rather than discriminate against certain nationalities, but we fear for the children who would now be deemed eligible under the new rules, and yet have been left behind.
While the DFID committee today heard evidence on the implementation of the Dubs amendment and the failures of the Home Office, questions were also asked on whether funds would be better spent in the Syria region rather than in Europe. We believe that while there are unaccompanied refugee children putting their lives in danger in Europe, vulnerable to abuse and trafficking, the UK’s effort should not exclude them. Lord Dubs proposed today giving evidence to the International Development Committee that rather than closing the scheme, it should be kept open and acted on as Local Authorities develop their capacity.
We also believe that the arbitrary eligibility cut off date, stating that children need to have been in Europe before March 20th 2016, will leave thousands ineligible and in danger. We maintain that closing safe legal routes to children will leave them with in the incredibly vulnerable position of either risking their lives trying to find refuge, being indebted to people smugglers or being pushed into the hands of traffickers.
Write to your Local MP and Council, asking to take in more unaccompanied child refugees here: https://www.writetothem.com/