For the avoidance of doubt, I did not support the attempt to reintroduce the Dubs Amendment or to amend the Bill.
The Dubs amendment was never intended to be an open ended scheme. If we were to continue the scheme indefinitely then that would create an additional pull factor. It is right that we prioritise our efforts on those children caught up in the conflict in Syria and the surrounding area - so that they can come to the UK safely and directly and with their families.
In 2016 we relocated almost as many children from within Europe to the UK as the entire of the EU's relocation scheme.
This was because of our efforts to support the camp clearance in Calais where we took over 750 unaccompanied children. 200 of those children from Calais were brought to the UK under the Dubs amendment and we have committed to take a further 150 'Dubs' children from France, Italy and Greece.
The Dubs amendment required us to consult Local Authorities on how many additional children they can manage. Each year 3,000 children arrive in the UK and claim asylum and we are taking approximately 2,000 – 3,000 each year through resettlement schemes. All of these children need support and protection. It is right that the Dubs amendment requires us to ask Local authorities how many more children they could safely accept - and that is exactly what we did. Some Local authorities are currently taking a disproportionate share of this burden; they are struggling to place the children in their care and have to pay for children to be supported in other Local Authority areas. We cannot allow a situation where councils choose to prioritise certain children over others and our National Transfer Scheme is intended to support a fairer distribution of vulnerable refugee and asylum seeking children across the UK.
Our aid spending is making a real difference to the lives of children in the conflict zone and the surrounding countries – including Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey. By prioritising our resources there we are able to reach more children; to provide them with education, with healthcare, and with support. Last year we were able to provide this help to over 800,000 children in Syria and the surrounding countries for the same investment that it would take to support 3,000 unaccompanied asylum-seeking children under 16 in the UK for one year.
I am committed to supporting, protecting and caring for the most vulnerable asylum-seeking and refugee children and I am pleased that our resettlement programme – which will bring 23,000 vulnerable people to the UK to start new lives by the end of this Parliament, is one of the biggest in Europe. By the end of this Parliament, we will have resettled 20,000 vulnerable Syrian nationals and a further 3,000 of the most vulnerable children and their families from the Middle East and North Africa.
The essence of the Kindertransport was to take unaccompanied children from an unsafe area of the world and to give them sanctuary. That is precisely what the Government has done. It is not taking children from countries of Europe which are safe but it is helping to care for them where they are.
We have pledged over £2.3 billion in aid in response to the events in Syria and the region - our largest ever humanitarian response to a single crisis, and we are one of the few EU countries to meet our commitment to spending 0.7 per cent of Gross National Income on overseas aid. We have also committed over £100m of humanitarian support to help alleviate the Mediterranean migration crisis in Europe and North Africa.