Britain to discontinue Dubs scheme despite criticism

Sunday 19/02/2017
Children hold a box of signed petitions as people gather to hear speeches on Whitehall in London, on February 11th. (AFP)

London - British Immigration Min­ister Robert Goodwill, in a surprise statement, announced that a gov­ernment plan that had been expected to relocate 3,000 unaccompanied child refugees to the United Kingdom would end in March after receiving just 350 unac­companied minors.
Known as the Dubs scheme, named after Lord Alfred Dubs who arrived in Britain prior to the second world war as part of the Kindertransport, the initiative aimed to specifically help some of the estimated 90,000 unaccompa­nied child migrants who had made the trip to Europe from North Africa and the Middle East.
Although no specific figure was included in the amendment to Brit­ain’s Immigration Act proposed by Lord Dubs last year, campaigners said they expected the plan to help thousands of unaccompanied child refugees.
“During the Kindertransport, Sir Nicky Winston rescued 669 chil­dren from Nazi persecution virtu­ally singlehandedly. I was one of those lucky ones,” Lord Dubs said. “It would be a terrible betrayal of his legacy if as a country we were unable to do more than this to help a new generation of refugees.”
The government claimed that local authorities do not have the funding to adequately care for un­accompanied refugee children and that Britain has accepted more than its share of refugee children through other programmes.
British Home Secretary Amber Rudd has argued that the Dubs scheme acted as a “pull factor” to draw more refugee children to Eu­rope. “The government has always been clear that we do not want to incentivise perilous journeys to Eu­rope, particularly by the most vul­nerable children,” she said.
The British government’s say­ing that it would not meet the ex­pected 3,000 figure, along with the low-key way that the decision was announced, angered many and re­sulted charity Help Refugees ques­tioning the legality of the govern­ment’s position.
“Our legal challenge holds the government to account on this critical issue of how many unac­companied refugee children will be relocated to the UK and supported here,” said human rights solicitor Rosa Curling.
“Now more than ever, we need to make our voices heard. Please write to your MP’s and call for an immediate re-consultation on this shamefully low number,” a Help Refugees statement said.
The decision was criticised by public figures, including Arch­bishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, who said he was “saddened and shocked” by the news. “Refugees, like all people, are treasured hu­man beings made in the image of God who deserve safety, freedom and the opportunity to flourish,” he said.
Judith Dennis, policy manager at the Refugee Council, called on the government to reconsider. “The government’s job is far from done. The global refugee crisis hasn’t gone away and if anything it’s get­ting worse. The UK needs to step up rather than step back and ensure we pull our weight.”
Several celebrities signed an open letter calling on British Prime Minister Theresa May to reverse the decision, branding it “truly shame­ful”.
The letter, signed by British sporting figure Gary Lineker and actors Keira Knightly and Benedict Cumberbatch, said the govern­ment had not done enough to help refugee children. “The country we know and love is bigger than this,” the letter concluded.
“The outpouring of support for the continuation of the Dubs scheme by these well-known fig­ures and the public demonstrates that its closure is at odds with the British values that make this coun­try great,” said Help Refugees co-founder Josie Naughton.
Lord Dubs portrayed the deci­sion as a potential “turning point” in British history. “Acts of heroism like this [the Kindertransport] de­fine our country. They characterise the values we hold dear.”
“Will we choose to follow [US President Donald] Trump or to hon­our tradition of generosity, compas­sion and courage?” he asked.