The Government has admitted that it will be limit the number of lone child asylum seekers who can apply for asylum into Britain through a scheme known as the 'Dubs scheme' to 350. The Dubs amendment was passed as part of the 2016 Immigration Act after an amendment by Lord Dubs was accepted by Parliament and written into law.
In 2015 88,245 unaccompanied children applied for asylum in the EU, including 3,045 in the UK. Q1 and Q2 figures of 2016 are down on Q3 and Q4 of 2015 but still up on the same quarter in the previous year. These children are vulnerable to the actions of smugglers and human traffickers, and it is conservatively estimated that at least 10,000 unaccompanied migrant children are currently missing in the EU.
In response to the Government's decision, Shabana Mahmood MP said, "I am deeply disappointed that the Government is taking this lifeline away from some of the most vulnerable children in our society. The Government said we would do the right thing and fully support the efforts to protect these children. Today, however we are slamming the door in their faces and putting the burden on other countries. Lone child asylum seekers will be even more vulnerable to the threat of trafficking and other horrors and I urge the Government to think again".
On 7 March Shabana voted in the House of Commons in favour of New Clause 14 of the Children and Social Work Bill, which would have required local authorities to report annually to the Secretary of State on their capacity to safeguard children in their area, including unaccompanied child refugees who could be transferred into the area from abroad. This would have undercut one of the main arguments that the Government has made against the Dubs amendment, namely, that councils did not have any more capacity to take in further refugee children. Unfortunately the Government majority prevented the New Clause being added. Shabana will continue to press the Government on this important issue of our times.