Many constituents have been in touch to express their view that the Government should be doing as much as possible to help refugees in Europe and beyond. While I thought it was right to prioritise children in camps and the worst affected zones, I understand that some people though the priorities should be children in the European camps – I recognise that my job is to explain my own views and represent my constituents.
So I am pleased that following a lot of pressure behind the scenes, the Government has found a way that it can do more to help refugees in Europe, as well as those it is already helping in the Middle East.
The Government has now announced it will work with local authorities, the UNHCR and NGOs to identify children who have arrived in Europe before the EU-Turkey deal to be resettled in the United Kingdom. The priority will be those children at risk of trafficking or exploitation, and existing family reunion routes will be accelerated.
The Government will work with local authorities to determine how many children can be resettled, to ensure this new initiative is fully aligned with existing schemes. I hope this new alignment will be much more effective than Lord Dubs’ original amendment to the Immigration Bill calling for an arbitrary 3,000 children to be resettled. Indeed, following this announcement Lord Dubs has removed the reference to 3,000 children from his amendment.
I believe this is a sensible scheme. It helps those in Europe who need help the most, without creating an incentive for more families to make the perilous journey from the Middle East to Europe. This complements the significant steps the UK is already taking to help refugees:
- Doubling the aid for the countries more affected by the Syrian crisis to £2.3billion – by far the most given by any European country and second only to the USA
- The Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme will help up to 3,000 people
- The £10m DFID fund which will support UNHCR, Save the Children and IRC to work in Europe to care and assist unaccompanied or separated children.