Criticism after Tories vote down child refugees amendment

Julie Porksen speaking at Liberal Democrat Conference in 2014.
Julie Porksen speaking at Liberal Democrat Conference in 2014.
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A Northumberland Lib Dem has criticised the Conservative Government’s ‘lack of humanity’ after a vote which refused to allow 3,000 unaccompanied child refugees into the UK from Europe.

Labour’s Lord Dubs, who arrived in the UK as a child refugee after fleeing Czechslovakia in the 1930s, had put forward an amendment to the Immigration Bill, which would have seen the UK accept 3,000 unaccompanied Syrian child refugees who had travelled to Europe.

This was defeated on Monday by the Commons, and passed again by the Lords on Tuesday – with the specific number of refugees stripped out – so the decision now rests again with the Commons.

Julie Pörksen, who ran against Anne-Marie Trevelyan in the Berwick constituency last May, said: “The fact that only a handful of Tory MPs have found the decency and humanity in their beings to take the compassionate decision to provide a safe future for child refugees makes me, and many others, both sad and angry. Those many Conservative MPs can hang their heads in shame that they will not look after the most vulnerable children in the world.

“This is not a financial decision, there is plenty of money in the DfID (Department for International Development) budget, it is a moral one. I hope that some Conservative MPs will find their humanity, defy the Government whip and give these children hope for a safe future.”

Mrs Trevelyan was one of 294 MPs to vote with the Government on Monday.

During the debate, Home Office Minister James Brokenshire explained that while the ‘Government wholeheartedly shares the intentions of the noble Lords to protect and support vulnerable unaccompanied refugee children’, ‘both head and heart’ must be used.

He said: “Our starting principle is that we must put the best interests of children first, and avoid any policy that places children at additional risk or encourages them to place their lives in the hands of people traffickers and criminal gangs.

“In any response, we need to be careful not inadvertently to create a situation in which families see an advantage in sending children ahead, alone and in the hands of traffickers, putting their lives at risk by making them attempt treacherous sea crossings to Europe.”

Last Thursday, the Government announced it will work with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to resettle children and adults from the Middle East and North Africa.

A statement said: ‘The new scheme will be specifically tailored to support vulnerable and refugee children at risk and their families. Several hundred individuals will be resettled over the next year with a view of resettling up to 3,000 over the lifetime of this Parliament.

‘On the UNHCR’s recommendation, the scheme will not solely target unaccompanied children, but will also extend to vulnerable children at risk, such as those threatened with child labour, child marriage and other forms of abuse or exploitation. It will be open to all ‘at-risk’ groups and nationalities within the region’.