EMMA LEWELL-BUCK: Government must show its humanity

A mock-up of a destroyed classroom outside the Houses of Parliament at a Save the Children event ahead of a London Syria Conference earlier this year. Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire
A mock-up of a destroyed classroom outside the Houses of Parliament at a Save the Children event ahead of a London Syria Conference earlier this year. Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

In a vote in the House of Commons on April 25, the Government narrowly defeated a cross-party amendment to the Immigration Bill tabled by the Labour peer Lord Alf Dubs.

This amendment, which Labour colleagues and I voted for, would have seen the UK accept 3,000 child refugees who have been displaced from Syria and other neighbouring countries.

The Home Secretary had shamefully managed to persuade most potential Tory rebels that the government was doing enough to help these poor children.

Lord Dubs was himself saved from the Nazis as a child refugee and was brought to safety in Britain by benefitting from the Kindertransport, the government programme that accepted child refugees from Germany in the run-up to the Second World War.

He has argued that any child fleeing the conflict in Syria and any other conflict-ridden country should be afforded the same welcome he and other children were given when he was a child.

The Tories tried to explain away their heartless decision claiming that accepting the amendment would create a situation in which families would see an advantage in sending children ahead alone and risk placing them into the hands of traffickers.

Save the Children believe that an estimated 10,000 unaccompanied children have gone missing in Europe and 95,000 have applied for asylum.

Children as young as nine are now sleeping on roadsides, in police cells and in informal camps. They are risking their lives as they try to reach relatives in our country – some are dying. They are having to fend for themselves, cook for themselves and risk being exploited every day.

We simply cannot and should not turn our backs on these vulnerable children, by doing so already David Cameron’s Government has shown us all how low on their agenda helping these vulnerable and terrified children is.

Lord Dubs has now revised his amendment to the Bill by removing the reference to 3,000 children and simply asks that Government should now make arrangements to relocate to the United Kingdom a “specified number of unaccompanied refugee children from other countries in Europe”.

Yvette Cooper, chair of Labour’s refugee taskforce, has said it is clear that MPs from all parties are feeling very uneasy about the idea of standing by while children in need are alone on the streets of Europe.

In just three days, nearly 60,000 people have signed a petition calling on Britain not to turn its back on these children.

Let’s hope that David Cameron and his party show some humanity and admit that they are wrong on this and agree to support the amendment, as I will be when MPs vote again on May 9.