Council leaders condemn closure of child refugee scheme

A number of council leaders have called on the government to maintain its commitment to vulnerable child refugees, after the Home Office cited local authority funding as part of the decision to scrap the scheme. 

A letter signed by leaders of Hammersmith & Fulham, Gedling, Camden, Ealing, Lambeth, Hounslow, Royal Borough of Greenwich and Lewisham councils called on Prime Minister Theresa May to reconsider her decision to remove the opportunity for lone asylum seekers under the age of 15 to seek support in the UK.

In response to the government’s early closure of the Dubs programme, the letter said: “We call on the government to re-consult with council leaders, reconsider the support given this important programme, and above all not to snatch this lifeline from thousands of desperate children in need.”

Councillor Steve Cowan, from Hammersmith and Fulham council said: “Despite our offer and despite our pestering, they have only given us 13 children, I don't know if its confidence or if it's a deliberate attempt not to let the children in, but I just don't believe it.

“There’s councils across the country, many in London, ready to step up - this is a humanitarian crisis.”

Home Secretary Amber Rudd has defended her decision, saying: “I am clear that when working with my French counterparts they do not want us to indefinitely continue to accept children under the Dubs Amendment because they specify, and I agree with them, that it acts as a draw.”

She added: “It acts as a pull. It encourages the people traffickers.”

Commenting on the decision, May said: “We have been seeing quite a number of children and families being resettled here in the United Kingdom.

"I think what we are doing in terms of refugees is absolutely right, on top of course of the significant financial support and humanitarian aid we are giving to refugees in the region of Syria - a commitment of £2.3 billion, the second biggest bilateral donor.”