CLOSURE OF ‘DUBS’ Relocation Scheme for Unaccompanied Child Refugees and Asylum Seekers in EU: Please scroll down to see National/Local campaigning actions.
It is estimated that there are currently 95,000 unaccompanied refugee children living in Europe, many of whom have suffered appalling abuse (May’17). Since the closure of the ‘Dubs’ scheme earlier this year 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.
The expectation had been that there would be full and comprehensive consultation with local authorities about the number of spaces they could make available. This was written into the legislation.There is concern however 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.
There has been widespread criticism of this decision at all levels:- by politicians, NGOs including The Refugee Council, City of Sanctuary, Citizen’s UK as well as church leaders. Sadly a parliamentary vote on 7th March ’17 was not successful. However we are grateful to Exeter MP Ben Bradshaw for voting for the scheme to continue and thank him for his ongoing support.
What has happened since March ’17?
To date (Sept’ 17) just over 200 lone child asylum seekers from Calais, France have come to safety here through the Dubs scheme. However, not a single lone child asylum seeker has arrived here this year under the Dubs Amendment. (The remaining 280 children they did promise to accept are still in ‘limbo’ and without protection . (www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/jul/19/uk-not-taken-any-child-refugees-dubs-scheme-this-year )
Since the closure of the scheme, dozens of vulnerable, potentially eligible children have continued 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 desperate again with UASCs being inappropriately detained for long periods with adults, in terrible and unsafe conditions -or returned under the Eu-Turkey migrant deal.
What Action have refugee organisations taken nationally and locally?
1. Legal Action: ‘Help Refugees’ ( http://helprefugees.org.uk/dubs)
“The Government’s foot-dragging is putting refugee children’s lives at risk. That is why this legal challenge is so very important. What these children need is a helping hand, similar to the one Britain lent me when I was a boy. I wasn’t left alone to live in camps or on the streets of Europe. I was saved by Britain and its people.” Lord Alf Dubs, Independent, 20th June ’17.
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. Links: http://helprefugees.org.uk/dubs/ ; www.facebook.com/HelpRefugeesUK/; #dubsnow: //twitter.com/hashtag/dubsnow?
Lord Alf Dubs, who has campaigned tirelessly on this issue, and Juliet Stevensen are supporting the case. ‘Help Refugees’ now funds more than 80 projects across Europe and the Middle East.
2. Safe Passage UK ( http://safepassage.org.uk/)
Safe Passage – Citizen’s UK are working on the ground in the EU, seeking to open new legal and safe routes to safety for UASCs. They support UASCs through ‘Family Re-Unification’ legal cases in France and Italy and are campaigning nationally in the UK for ‘Dubs’ to re-open.. Please see the video link below on their interview with Alf Dubs and how people can help.
3. Exeter City of Sanctuary/other local groups
- ExCoS supports ‘Help Refugees’ court action. We also support Safe Passage UK . 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.
- Exeter MP Ben Bradshaw has supported our work around UASCs and ‘Dubs’ both locally and in Parliament.
- 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
- 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. This offer is separate to the National Transfer Scheme for UASCs already in the UK and we applaud Devon County Council 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
- 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 )
Safe Passage UK: https://www.facebook.com/SafePassage2/videos/342581676196589/
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