The Government has announced it will end its commitment to take in thousands of unaccompanied child refugees from Europe after only 350 have been brought to Britain.
Immigration minister Robert Goodwill told MPs yesterday the UK would take only one more group of 150 lone child refugees under the Dubs amendment.
Former Prime Minister David Cameron last May agreed to take in an unspecified number of unaccompanied refugees under the age of 18 under an initiative formulated by Lord Dubs.
It was understood that under the scheme around 3,000 child refugees out of an estimated 90,000 would be brought in from camps in France, Greece and Italy, and housed by local authorities.
However, yesterday’s announcement means the final total will not be above 350.
Responding to the Government’s u-turn, Cllr David Simmonds, chairman of the Local Government Association’s (LGA) asylum, refugee and migration task group, defended the track record of councils in caring for the refugees.
‘Councils demonstrated tremendous leadership at a local, regional and national level in resettling the children from the Calais camp,’ he said.
‘Each child received an individual package of care, with councils ensuring that the children settled into their new communities as quickly and easily as possible.
‘Large numbers of children also experienced horrendous conditions in their country of origin or during their journey and councils worked with local partners to ensure ongoing health and care support was made available as and when they needed it.’
Referring to refugees not necessarily included under the Dubs amendment, Cllr Simmonds went on to note the number of unaccompanied asylum seeking children living in England increased by more than 50% to over 4,000 in 2016.
He also urged Whitehall to put in place long-term funding arrangements to support councils who look after the children.
For more on this read our feature, 'Unaccompanied asylum-seeking children – the local authority conundrum.' Also, check out our interview with Kent County Council’s cabinet member for specialist children’s services.