I have received emails from individuals which are well-meaning but are somewhat confused. They relate to the so-called Dubs amendment which dealt with unaccompanied asylum seeking children. The original Lord Dubs amendment called on the Government to relocate 3000 unaccompanied children from Europe, as a fair proportion of the estimated 10,000 children who Europol said were missing in Europe. That amendment was defeated, and I have already set out on this web-site my reasons for voting to oppose this arbitrary figure and its concentration on children from Europe. The Government did accept a revised amendment to the Immigration Bill put forward by Lord Dubs, which proposed that the Government consults with local authorities before setting out a plan for resettling children from Europe to the UK. No fixed number on arrivals was put forward, but instead the Government said it would consult with local authorities across the UK to determine how many children would be resettled. This February, 'in accordance with section 67 of the Immigration Act', the Government announced that it will transfer the specified number of 350 children who reasonably meet the intention and spirit behind the provision. This number includes the 200 or so children already transferred from France. It does not include children transferred to the UK where they have close family here.
Work continues in Greece, Italy, and France to transfer further children under the amendment, to strike a balance between enabling eligible children to come to the UK as quickly as possible and ensuring local authorities have capacity to host, support and care for them.
The Immigration Act obliged the Government to put a specific number on how many children it would take based on a consultation with local authorities about their capacity. The French, while committing to processing the children who have come from the Calais camps, have said that the hope of being taken into the Dubs scheme and coming to the UK stops children cooperating with the French authorities. In addition, we should not risk incentivising perilous journeys to Europe, particularly by the most vulnerable children.
In 2016, over 900 unaccompanied asylum-seeking children were transferred to the UK from Europe. This included more than 750 from France as part of the UK's support for the Calais camp clearance. Over 200 of those children met the published criteria for what became section 67 of the Immigration Act (the revised Dubs Amendment). The remainder were transferred under an accelerated process based on the family reunion criteria of the Dublin regulation. It is still the intention to resettle 3,000 of the most vulnerable children and their families from the Middle East and North Africa region under the vulnerable children's resettlement scheme and it must be right to focus on helping those outside of Europe, as they are the children most at risk.