‘DUBS’ Relocation Scheme for Unaccompanied Child Refugees /Asylum Seekers in EU: Please scroll down to see National/Local campaigning actions by ExCoS and NGOs .
It is estimated that there are currently over 90,000 unaccompanied refugee children living in Europe, many of whom have suffered appalling abuse (May’17). Since the capping of the ‘Dubs’ scheme earlier this year at 480 places the hope of finding a legal route to safety for most of these children has now gone.
What is the Dub’s Scheme? In May 2016 parliament passed the new Immigration Act 2016 which included the Dubs Amendment (Section 67) for unaccompanied child refugees and asylum seekers in Europe (the ‘hotspots’ of Northern France, Greece, Italy ) . This committed the government to offering sanctuary to some of these most vulnerable and at risk children, living alone in unsatisfactory temporary camps or sleeping outdoors and in need of urgent protection. It was envisaged during the parliamentary debates that up to 3,000 lone children and young people would be resettled here from the EU and there was support across all the political parties for this. (A helpful Fact Sheet on both the ‘Dubs’ Scheme and Dublin 111 Family Re-unification is available here: www.fullfact.org/immigration/ask-full-fact-dubs-and-dublin/
When did it close and Why?
The Government announced in February ’17 that they were suspending the Dubs scheme in March, capping the numbers of children to be resettled here from Europe at just 350. This was later adjusted in April ’17 to 480. They argued that ‘official’ EU relocation schemes like ‘Dubs’ acted as ‘pull factors’ for traffickers and perilous journeys by sea- a claim widely contested. They also argued that LAs only had places for this number- again a claim widely contested by LAs themselves . There has been concern that there was not adequate or transparent consultation with Local Authorities and, reportedly, that 100s more offers of spaces were not included.
We believe Local Authorities in the South West have offered 130 places for ‘Dubs’ and these have now been included by the Home Office.
What Action have refugee organisations taken nationally and locally since March ’17?
Photo: Campaigners from the SW with Lord Dubs at Parliament Day of Action for Child Refugees 24/10/17 including C. Henry (ExCoS), Faraday Fearnside, OHOB , Plymouth and Robert Butler, Cornwall
1. Day of Action at Parliament 24th October and Parliamentary Debate 2/11/17 , organised by Safe Passage’ ( http://safepassage.org.uk/) and ‘Help Refugees’. This national campaign, rally and lobbying of MPs at Parliament , which ExCoS participated in, coupled with the subsequent Parliamentary debate were aimed at putting the #childrenofcalais and EU back on the political agenda. 200 lone child asylum seekers were brought to safety here through the Dubs scheme from Calais last year and 20 of them presented a plaque to Lord Dubs during the Day of Action at parliament . Sadly however not a single lone child asylum seeker arrived here between January and October under Dubs. The campaign sought to pressure the Government to fill all the remaining 280 ‘Dubs’ places they promised and to speed up the process of family reunification (Dublin 111).
As a result of this national campaign Dubs transfers have restarted and a small number of young people have again arrived in the UK under the scheme. 2 new reception Centres are to open near Calais for UASC while their applications are dealt with.
Since the demolition of the ‘jungle’ camp last Oct’ (’16) hundreds of vulnerable, potentially eligible children continue to live near Calais in forests or risking their lives by continuing to make dangerous attempts to cross the Channel to reach the UK. There are reports of significant police harassment, use of pepper sprays and daily confiscation of clothing, sleeping bags, tents. The situation in Greece, particularly on the islands like Lesvos, has become urgent again with UASCs being inappropriately detained for long periods with adults, often in terrible and unsafe conditions..
2. Legal Action: ‘Help Refugees’ ( http://helprefugees.org.uk/dubs)
On 20th June ’17 ‘Help Refugees’ undertook a High Court challenge against the Government over the number of unaccompanied child asylum seekers being accepted into UK under ‘Dubs’ on grounds of an inadequate consultation with LAs. Lord Alf Dubs, who has campaigned tirelessly on this issue, and Juliet Stevensen supported the case. ‘Help Refugees’ now funds more than 80 projects across Europe, including at Calais, and the Middle East.
3. Further Actions: Exeter City of Sanctuary/other local groups
- ExCoS has written to Immigration Minister Brandon Lewis requesting he make urgent arrangements to bring these 280 children to safety here from Greece, France and Italy. Letter-to-Immigration-Minister-re-DUBS-1
- Exeter MP Ben Bradshaw has supported our work around UASCs and ‘Dubs’ both locally and in Parliament. We are grateful to Exeter MP Ben Bradshaw for voting for the scheme to continue at The parliamentary vote in March ’17. Unfortunately he was unable to attend the recent Parliamentary debate but is following up some of our queries with relevant Gov. departments.
- ExCoS made a Freedom of Information request to DCC asking for confirmation as to whether they had made a specific offer of places to the Home Office- for unaccompanied child asylum seekers in the EU, eligible for ‘Dubs’ scheme. Devon County Council have confirmed that they have offered to resettle UASCs brought here under Dubs and informed the Home office of this. For reasons of confidentiality DCC will not disclose exact numbers. We applaud Devon County Council’s compassionate response. DCC had 21 UASCs in their care as of August 17. https://new.devon.gov.uk/accesstoinformation/archives/infomation_request/national-transfer-scheme-and-dubs
- ExCoS supports ‘Help Refugees’ and Safe Passage UK ‘s campaigns. We share updates, petitions etc regularly from both organisations so please do check our Facebook posts for news of these campaigns and how you can help.
- Plymouth based ‘Open Hearts Open Borders-Refugee Aid’ have been campaigning with ‘Safe Passage’ and recently visited Calais with their local MP. They are sending a container of aid to Lesvos, Greece.
- Ottery Refugee Response group have been raising the profile of this issue locally and seeking support/discussion with their local MP.
City of Sanctuary nationally made a very strongly worded statement in March ’17 on the closure of the ‘Dubs Amendment’ child relocation scheme:
‘We, in the City of Sanctuary network express our deep concern shared by many about the Government’s attitude to the refugee crisis and their lack of commitment to accommodating unaccompanied refugee children through the Dubs Amendment. We urge our supporters to be vigilant and continue building a vibrant network essential to provide welcome and safety to sanctuary seekers……………..
Last month the Government stated that only 150 more children would be accepted under the Dubs Amendment. However, data from local authorities shows that there are at least 368 spaces available. It is very concerning that many councils have reported that their offers to take more children were ignored by the Home Office.
Sadly, on the 7th March MPs voted 287–267 to close the Dubs Amendment, and to shut the door on about 3,000 unaccompanied asylum seeking children living without protection in Europe. This is quite a disturbing decision……..
Worst of all, the argument for upholding the cap of 350 children, is based on inaccurate information and politics of fear. Many councils have said they contacted the Home Office about available spaces and a willingness to take in child refugees, but were ignored.
Home Secretary Amber Rudd has perpetuated misinformed ideas by arguing that Dubs and other transfer schemes act as ‘pull factors’, that they promote the role of traffickers. These arguments are incorrect, and are used as excuses to neglect these young refugees.
Where is our moral compass, and compassion? We, in the city of sanctuary movement are concerned that if we do not stand up for these children, we will allow the UK government to decide that young unaccompanied children who have fled war and conflict seeking refuge in supposedly “safe” Europe, are not worthy of our help or care.” City of Sanctuary, 15th March 17
- The Refugee Council ( Click Here), church leaders ( Here), Citizen’s UK, Safe Passage and Help Refugees etc have all made statements and campaigned on this issue, seeking a reinstatement of Dubs.
- ExCos also made a statement and we wrote to our supporters about the closure, encouraging them to write to their MPs with their concerns, urge them to attend the parliamentary debate on 23.2.17 and advocate and lobby for the continuance of the Dubs programme. Unfortunately the vote in Parliament on this issue was not successful. Local MP Ben Bradshaw however voted for the scheme to be continued. We are grateful for his support on this.
- Click on image below to view ExCoS’ statement or download here: (ExCoS statement/letter on Dubs Scheme closure-to Supporters )
Parliamentary Debate 2/11/17: Opening Speech, Heidi Allen
— Haggis_UK – #FBPE (@Haggis_UK) November 2, 2017
A transcript of the full debate ‘ Calais and Unaccompanied Child Refugees: Europe’ is available here: https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2017-11-02/debates/28C1012E-764F-441F-A9EE-EBA60801B7D4/UnaccompaniedChildRefugeesEurope
Safe Passage UK:
Safe Passage are working on the ground in Calais and other EU countries, seeking to open new legal and safe routes to safety for UASCs. They are working on ‘Family Re-Unification’ legal cases in France and Italy and have been campaigning nationally in the UK for Dublin 111 and Dubs.
Last week Safe Passage showed Lord Alf Dubs around Calais, this is the first time he has visited since the Jungle was demolished 10-months ago.He was shocked to still find 100s of unaccompanied minors still sleeping rough with the constant threat of police violence. At the end of the trip we had a chance to ask him some of your questions. WATCH to find out how you can help raise the issue of child refugees on the political agenda this autumn.
Posted by Safe Passage UK on Tuesday, August 29, 2017
Credit: Photo above–Reuters PA Images