During the Immigration Bill debate on Monday, I supported and then voted for the Lords Amendment 87. This was tabled by my Labour colleagues in the House of Lords and it would have required the Government to relocate and support 3,000 unaccompanied children from Europe had it been passed.
Lord Dubs, who tabled this amendment, was himself a beneficiary of the Kindertransport, the government-backed programme that accepted child refugees from Germany in the run-up to the second world war.
I know there was strong public support for this amendment and that it was also backed by a range of charities including UNICEF and Save the Children, who have estimated that by relocating and supporting 3,000 unaccompanied children from Europe the UK would be making its fair contribution to help tackle this growing humanitarian crisis. This would have been an important and overdue step to help support some of the most vulnerable refugees that have sought sanctuary in Europe. I also believe the Government should have acted much more quickly on this vital issue over the last year and that their response has been too slow, limited and reluctant.
This amendment would not have, of course, solved this problem on its own, but it would have been an important step forward. Labour have repeatedly called on the Government to do more to tackle the refugee crisis, in particular to support and relocate unaccompanied children within Europe.
You can read my contribution to the debate during my colleague Kier Starmer’s fantastic speech below or watch here:
“I was particularly moved by yesterday’s article by the former Archbishop, Rowan Williams. He compared the action being taken now with how we responded to the plight of children during the second world war. Does my hon. and learned Friend not agree with him that supporting the Dubs amendment “is an opportunity for us to live up to the best of our tradition in Britain of reaching out a hand to help the most vulnerable”?”
Unfortunately, this Government did not pass this amendment as MPs voted against the proposals by 294 to 276, despite a handful of Conservative MPs who used their conscience and voted in favour of accepting the child refugees. However, Labour will continue to challenge this government on this issue as the House of Lords have voted in favour of a second proposal urging the government to do more to help some of the thousands of unaccompanied child refugees stranded in mainland Europe.