"Dismay" at suspension of Dubs policy
The Revd Lynn Green, General Secretary of the Baptist Union of Great Britain, has joined leaders of four churches to express concern at the intention to suspend a programme for the safe re-settlement of unaccompanied minors seeking refuge in the United Kingdom
In what has come to be known as the “Dubs” amendment, Parliament committed, in May 2016, to an ongoing programme of resettlement for lone children. While exact figures were not given in final legislation, the number envisaged was considerably more than the limit that has now been imposed. The intention to suspend the programme was made in a written ministerial statement earlier this week.
In a joint statement and a letter to the Home Secretary Amber Rudd, the leaders urged the Government to reconsider and to adopt a policy that places the wellbeing of children above any other consideration.
Their statement points out the potentially damaging effect of signalling to already vulnerable minors that they are unlikely to find safe passage and re-settlement if they make themselves known to relevant authorities. There is compelling evidence that many such children have simply “disappeared” from the temporary refugee camps.
It also highlights work already done by churches and community groups to provide welcome and support for refugee children and families, and encourages an approach that actively seeks to engage with such agencies, rather than limiting provision to the capacity of Local Authorities.
Signing the letter and statement alongside Mrs Green were Right Rev Dr Russell Barr, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, Kevin Watson, General Assembly Moderator of the United Reformed Church, and the Revd Roger Walton and Rachel Lampard, President and Vice-President of the Methodist Conference.
Mrs Green said, 'I have visited some of the temporary camps for myself and have been deeply moved both by the humanity of those who live there, and the vulnerability of unaccompanied children and young people who seek shelter within those communities.
'Many have already been robbed of much of their childhood and we have a moral responsibility to do all that we can to protect them and provide places of refuge and support.'
Dr Barr said, 'We urge UK Government ministers to reconsider and we remain willing to work with the Home Office to find creative ways to deliver on the widespread expectation on the part of the general public to achieve the goal of 3,000 children as soon as possible.
'As Christians we believe that there is a moral imperative to ‘love our neighbour’, illustrated in Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan, that defines anyone in need as our neighbour regardless of race, nationality, religion, language or culture.'
Mr Watson added, 'We lament this decision made by the Government, which must do all that is within its power to recognise and uphold the rights of children fleeing conflict.'
Last Thursday (16 February) Home Secretary Amber Rudd stated that the Dubs had acted as a draw for children and people traffickers, a view shared by the French authorities. 'We don’t want to incentivise journeys to Europe,' she said.
'It acts as a pull. It encourages the people traffickers.'
The charity Help Refugees is challenging the Government’s "failure to properly implement the Dubs Amendment" in a judicial review. The closure of the Dubs Scheme is set to be debated in the House of Commons on Thursday (23 February).