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27.04.16

Councils oppose new amendment for UK to take in more child refugees

Another bid by the House of Lords to increase the number of asylum-seeking children allowed into the UK has been opposed by the LGA.

Cllr David Simmonds, chair of the LGA’s refugee and migration task force, told the Guardian that he agreed with prime minister David Cameron in opposing the motion, which states that the UK government and local authorities should agree a set number of child asylum seekers to take from refugee camps in Europe.

The prime minister said during questions by MPs that the priority should be on taking children directly from their home countries, instead of from Europe.

Simmonds told the Guardian that although he agreed that children were “trapped” in France and other European countries, there was “a clear responsibility for the French authorities” to deal with them.

The amendment to the Immigration Bill was introduced last night after a previous amendment obliging the UK to take in 3,000 child refugees from Europe – in addition to the government’s existing commitment to take 3,000 extra children from war-torn countries such as Syria – was rejected in a House of Commons vote.

The new amendment seeks to get around the Commons because, unlike the previous amendment, it does not involve a set charge to public funds, which MPs argued was outside the proviso of the Lords.

Labour peer Lord Dubs, who himself came to England as a beneficiary of the Kindertransport scheme to rehome Jewish children at risk from the Nazis, tabled both amendments.

He said that the number of child asylum seekers was originally thought to be 26,000 but now could be as high as 90,000.

The location of at least 10,000 children is unknown, putting them at risk of trafficking and exploitation.

Lord Dubs added that he was “astonished” by the popular support for taking in more children, saying: “The British people are rising to the need for a humanitarian response. It is fine that we are doing good things in the region, but British people see that there is a problem for children exposed and vulnerable in various parts of Europe.

“They are not all safe. They may be in an EU country, but many of them are in dangerous circumstances. The fact that many have disappeared altogether is an indication of how alarming the position is.”

The LGA has also previously said that the government must ensure existing child asylum seekers are fairly dispersed among local authorities and clarify funding for child asylum seeker schemes beyond July.

(Image c. Muhammed Muheisen from AP/ Press Association Images)

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