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Lord Alfred Dubs: Government is still betraying asylum-seeking children

PUBLISHED: 15:26 14 December 2016 | UPDATED: 10:27 15 December 2016

Lord Alfred Dubs has criticised the government's new eligibility criteria for refugees. Photo: Adam Tiernan Thomas

Lord Alfred Dubs has criticised the government's new eligibility criteria for refugees. Photo: Adam Tiernan Thomas

© Adam Tiernan Thomas

The Labour peer who campaigned for unaccompanied children to be given UK refuge says the government has not entirely kept its word under his Amendment

Lord Alf Dubs with speakers Jennifer Dominic, Baljeet Sandhu, Catherine West, MP for Hornsey and Wood Green, Gulwali Passarlay and Rabbi David Mason at the Muswell Hill meeting. Photo: Adam Tiernan ThomasLord Alf Dubs with speakers Jennifer Dominic, Baljeet Sandhu, Catherine West, MP for Hornsey and Wood Green, Gulwali Passarlay and Rabbi David Mason at the Muswell Hill meeting. Photo: Adam Tiernan Thomas

Lord Alfred Dubs sponsored an amendment to offer unaccompanied vulnerable children safe refuge in the UK.

More than 750 children have arrived since the Calais camp was cleared, either through the Dubs Amendment or because they have family in the UK.

Speaking at an event about young refugees at Fortismere School in Muswell Hill on Thursday, Lord Dubs said he was very pleased the children had been brought over.

He paid tribute to the strength of public opinion in persuading the government.

But he is concerned that strict government criteria is barring some desperate children from the UK.

The Home Office only welcomes under 12s, children at high risk of sexual exploitation, and those from Syria and Sudan aged 15 or below, or the siblings of children meeting one of those criteria, unless the children have family in the UK.

Lord Dubs, who fled Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia in 1939, said: “They only in a very small way accepted the letter and spirit of the Amendment...”

“What about Afghans, what about Eritreans, Ethiopians, Somalis?”

He added: “I said to the minister, this is totally against what you gave your word as being.

“If you’d said, these are the priorities, fair enough, because we all said, go for the most vulnerable first. But to have these eligibility criteria is shocking...”

“I have to say I’m disappointed - I do think it’s a betrayal of the word they’ve given and what they should be doing, all the NGOs are all highly alarmed at what they’ve done.”

Nine asylum-seeking children were welcomed in Camden and three in Haringey in October.

Rabbi David Mason of Muswell Hill Synagogue introduced Antonia Cohen from the Refugee Cricket Project, which gives asylum-seeking children the opportunity to play cricket.

The audience also learnt about JUMP, a befriending scheme for vulnerable young asylum seekers.

Sheila Melzak, director of The Baobab Centre for Young Survivors in Exile, a therapeutic community for child and adolescent asylum seekers, also spoke.

Catherine West, MP for Hornsey and Wood Green, said: “It’s wonderful to hear from parliamentarians but it’s actually even more special to hear real stories, and the civic society that pushes so good things happen.”

A Home Office spokeswoman said: “The eligibility criteria was intended to ensure that we focused on the most vulnerable children – because of their age or they were assessed as being at high risk of sexual exploitation.

“In addition, as required by the Immigration Act, we looked at nationalities most likely to qualify for refugee status in the UK.

“The Dubs process has not ended. In line with the terms of the Act, more eligible children will be transferred from across Europe in the coming months.”

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